Whatever happens when Andy Murray steps on to the court here to face Roger Federer in the semi-final of the Australian Open this morning, it can't be as scary as the last time the two men met in a grand slam tournament.

Murray's four-set defeat by the Swiss in last year's Wimbledon final was a match like no other for the Scot, in terms of meaning and pressure. A semi-final 12,000 miles away in Australia? That will be a walk in the park.

"I learned a lot from that match," Murray said yesterday before heading out for a second night of practice under the lights. "I went through some things in that match that I really hadn't been through before.

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"Regardless of what I said at the time, there was pretty significant pressure on me on that day as well so it is very unlikely I will play another match in my career where I'll be under as much pressure as that.

"I was very emotional at the end but I felt like I handled the match well and I think I handled the situation pretty well and obviously played some of my best tennis just a few weeks after that at the Olympics."

His Wimbledon defeat prompted the Scot to look deep inside his psyche, asking himself if he really wanted it enough, if he really had what it takes. The answer came less than a month later when he won Olympic gold.

Not only that, but the manner of his win over Federer in that Olympic final, back on the Wimbledon grass, was a turning point for the 25-year-old. Mentally, he believed he deserved to be up there, as he showed when he won the US Open the following month.

Murray leads Federer 10-9 in their head-to-head record but the hidden concern is facing him in a grand slam tournament, having lost all three of their previous clashes. In the US Open of 2008; Murray said he was "not ready"; in the 2010 Australian Open he had chances; and, at Wimbledon, last summer, he took the first set.

"Maybe I've just not converted as many chances as I needed to against him in the slams and that's where his experience has probably told," said Murray of the 17-times grand slam champion. "But I think the match at the Olympics was good for me mentally. To have played him over five sets and to have won quickly and convincingly was good for me to realise that once you get ahead of these guys you really need to stay on top of them. That's the difference between winning and losing against the best players over five sets."

Of the two, Murray has enjoyed the easier path to the semi-finals, not dropping a set on his way through to the last four for only the second time in his slam career. Federer did not drop a set until the quarters, where he was pushed to a decider by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Darren Cahill, one of the most respected coaches in the game, and who has worked with Murray in the past and helped him get together with Ivan Lendl, said the Tsonga battle may have taken more out of Federer than it seemed. "I think physically, that five-set match with Tsonga was reasonably taxing," said Cahill, who is working as a commentator here for ESPN. "While it wasn't that long a match, it was the same style of tennis that Roger plays.

"There are five set matches where you can play four hours and physically you feel okay. There are five-set matches that last 3½ hours and you feel like you've hit the wall. That was one of those [the latter] type of matches, because Tsonga's so explosive in his movement, Roger couldn't settle into any type of pattern and he had to do a ton of running as well.

"How he feels physically will maybe determine how aggressively he comes out at the start, but I think you'll see someone who's going to take the game to Andy."

Cahill, who also had a trial to become Federer's coach a few years ago, said he thought Murray was a much better player now than a few years ago, helped by Lendl's influence. "I see more resolve in the way he goes about things," he said. "I see a stronger baseline game; I see a pumped up serve; he's more comfortable around the net.

"And I see a certain amount of belief. It's not that it wasn't there before, but there was always that little bit of doubt in the big moment. Once he got to the semi-finals you could see that he was just a little intimidated at that particular stage. He doesn't seem like that anymore."

Whoever comes through their semi-final will take on the defending champion Novak Djokovic, who produced a masterclass to dismiss Spain's David Ferrer.

Ferrer, the No.4 seed, has a reputation for running down everything, never giving up and having an engine like no one else, but last night Djokovic ripped him apart, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1, to move within one win of a third straight Australian Open title, a fourth in all and a sixth grand slam tournament crown.

After beating Tsonga, Federer discussed the fine line between attacking at the right time and attacking too much.

If Murray is to join Djokovic in the final, he will have to do everything well. The difference now, though, is that he knows he can do it.