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It's all about the end game for Murray

If it was an indication of Andy Murray's state of mind, his simple, clenched-fist celebration at the end of his Australian Open semi-final victory over Roger Federer was perfect.

Landmark victory over Federer produces only perfunctory celebrations as driven Murray immediately switches focus to final
Landmark victory over Federer produces only perfunctory celebrations as driven Murray immediately switches focus to final

No leap in the air, not even a roar of satisfaction, just that one gesture, a handshake and move on.

Considering it was his first ever win over the Swiss in four grand slam matches, you might have thought Murray would have been at least a little excited. Seeing off Federer 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 6-7, 6-2 took him into a third straight grand slam final, a third final here in Melbourne and his sixth grand slam final in all.

Tomorrow he will take on world No.1 Novak Djokovic, the man he beat to win last year's US Open, but Murray was all business, refusing to get carried away. "It's been a long, long match and a very late finish," he said. "I'm tired. I don't want to be wasting any energy because I'll need all of it if I want to win against Novak."

It was classic Murray, ever the perfectionist and yet another example of the kind of thought process that Ivan Lendl has instilled since he took over as coach just over a year ago.

Lendl was delighted at the way Murray recovered in the fifth set, especially after the emotional turmoil of failing to serve out for the match at 6-5 in the fourth.

"Playing Roger is never easy and he stepped it up when he had to," Lendl said. "Andy was fortunately able to produce when he had to. He did well to come back in the fifth set after twice leading but that is what he trained for.

"He trained for it physically and he trained for it mentally. He tried to focus on every point in practice, then it is easier in matches. That is what you have to do."

The most impressive aspects of Murray's win were the way he went about it and then the way he finished it off. In every department of the game, with the exception of net play, which Federer just shaded, Murray was head and shoulders the better player, something that could not be said about any of their previous grand slam meetings.

In his pomp, Federer was rarely out-aced on hard courts, even when he played the likes of Andy Roddick, but yesterday Murray slammed down 21 aces to the four-time former champion's paltry five.

Murray hit 62 winners to Federer's 43, broke serve six times to the Swiss's twice and made fewer unforced errors (47 to 60). The former women's world No.1 Chris Evert described it as the best she had ever seen Murray play and it wasn't far off.

Federer had success when he attacked the Murray second serve but the Scot did such a good job on his first serve that he didn't give him too many opportunities. Varying his direction well, he kept Federer guessing.

Perhaps fearful of Murray's much-improved forehand, the Swiss targeted his opponent's backhand but too often got sucked into cross-court rallies he had little chance of winning.

After taking the first set thanks to one break in the third game, Murray was cruising on his own serve, dropping just six points up to the second-set tie-break, though Federer continued to try to change pace and attack when he could. As champions do, Federer stepped it up a notch to win the tie-break 7-5.

After Murray took the third set, Federer again lifted his game late in the fourth to level at two sets all. Dealing with fluctuations in a match is never easy mentally but Murray coped well with the loss of two sets he could easily have won and with a bit of trash talk from Federer, a rare foray into gamesmanship from the usually unflappable Swiss.

After Murray passed him down the line on the opening point at 6-5, Federer said something to Murray. It didn't rattle Murray but it lifted Federer and he took the set, so the way Murray composed himself at the start of the fifth set and came out firing was doubly encouraging.

More aggressive again, he put Federer on the back foot when he had expected to be able to turn the screw. Breaking in the second game of the decider, Murray raced to a 3-0 lead and, much as he had done at the US Open, never let up.

He could have won over three sets, or four, so much was he in control, and only Federer's brilliance, perhaps fading ever so slightly, kept him in it.

"After the fourth set he took a toilet break and I had a bit more time to sort of think," Murray said. "I'd put myself in a winning position and just had to think to myself what I'd done to get in that position and make sure I did it at the beginning of the fifth set."

Murray has already outdone Lendl by following up his first grand slam victory by immediately reaching the final of the next one.

No-one has managed to win two in such fashion since Australia's Lew Hoad in 1956 and Djokovic has the distinct advantage of having had an extra day to recover after his three-set semi-final against David Ferrer.

Murray and Federer scrapped it out for almost five hours in the semi-finals here last year but the big difference this time is that Murray knows he can beat the Serb in a big final.

If he can recover physically, it could be a classic. Either way, with the way these two play, it is unlikely to be short.

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