Roger Federer leaves the court after his loss against Andy Murray (below) in their men’s singles semi-final match of the Australian Open in Melbourne yesterday
Roger Federer gave his all, but for once it was not enough. When his back was to the wall, as it was for most of an intense and at times feisty semi-final at the Australian Open, the 17-times Grand Slam champion went for broke and occasionally pulled it off. But in the end, the six years he was giving to Andy Murray weighed heavy on his legs and he was unable to sustain his aggression, going down 6-4 6-7 6-3 6-7 6-2 after exactly four hours.
“Andy was just a bit better today,” Federer told reporters. “I think overall he created more chances than I did. I struggled to get into his service games time and again the way I usually do and then in the fifth set, he did well and was more aggressive.” It is now three years since Federer last won a Grand Slam title on a hard court and what may concern him most of all is that he was outplayed in every department.
Federer served out
Against the most attacking player in the men’s game, US Open champion Murray hit more aces, more winners, fewer unforced errors and broke serve six times to the Swiss’s two. That he managed to stretch the match to five sets, especially having gone the distance in the previous round, was testament to his mental strength and sheer desire to win.
But in the final set, where once he might have run through a mentallyscarred opponent, he was broken early, ran out of steam and in the end, was well beaten. “I was down in the score, basically from the start,” he said. “Definitely it (felt) more like a chase. I was able to level it a couple of times. I think it was a tough match. I think I had my chances a little bit.
But Andy was a bit better than I was tonight.” At 31, the simple truth is that on hard courts, especially in the cool conditions he faced on Friday, Federer is no longer able to hit through his opponents as easily as he once could.
Though he won plenty of trades from the baseline, he could not sustain his moments of brilliance for long enough to strike the fatal blow. When he attacked the Murray second serve, he had success; when he went back into his shell, chipped back and let the Scot dictate the rallies, he struggled.
Federer had success serving out wide to the Murray forehand on the deuce court, but too often allowed himself to get sucked into backhandto- backhand rallies that played to the third seed’s strengths. Murray extended his record over Federer, the 17-time major champion, to 11-9, but it was his first victory over Federer in four Grand Slam matches.
It will be Murray's sixth Grand Slam final third Australian Open finals. “It’s always tough against Roger and he’s at his best in the Grand Slams and when his back is against the wall, and (when) I was serving for the match at 6-5 he produced some great shots,” Murray said. “I kept fighting and he made a few loose shots early in the fifth set and I stuck in.”
Li Na the crowd Fav
Melbourne - Li Na is expected to receive the lion’s share of crowd support in the Australian Open final Saturday after Victoria Azarenka was accused of stooping to gamesmanship to reach the title match.
China’s Li has consistently stated that Melbourne Park makes her feel at home, but world number one Azarenka’s relationship with patrons inside Rod Laver Arena has always been uneasy.
She has been jeered in the past for her trademark shrieks while hitting the ball, and her triumph in the semifinal against Sloane Stephens was marred by a controversial medical timeout at a crucial stage. Azarenka lost five match points while dropping her serve at 5-3 in the second set. When she completed her 6-1, 6-4 win after extended off-court treatment from the doctor, there was only a smattering of applause.
And the 23-year-old was sternly criticised in Australian newspapers on Friday. “Let’s hope she loses the final,” wrote The Australian. “Aza bad call,” was the headline in the Herald-Sun. “Beyond A Choke,” was on the front page of The Age. “Azarenka’s cheating ain’t no choke,” said The Daily Telegraph.