Playing in what was one of his best matches since his triumphant 2013 Wimbledon title, Andy Murray ousted Tomas Berdych in four sets 6-7(6), 6-0, 6-3, 7-5 earlier today in the semifinals at the Australian Open.
Murray advances to his eighth career Grand Slam final, fourth at the Australian Open where he came up just short in 2010, 2011 and 2013.
But early in the match there was tension. During the off season Murray parted on unfriendly terms with longtime assistant coach Dani Vallverdu who was upset with Murray’s allegiance to Amelie Mauresmo.
Shunned by Ivan Lendl, Tomas Berdych scooped up Vallverdu, and tonight Murray got some payback. And Berdych, Murray alleges said some words to him on the changeover at the end of the first set.
Murray, who underwent back surgery 16 months ago, has only lost two sets en route to the Sunday final where he will await the Novak Djokovic-Stan Wawrinka winner.
Ranked No. 6, he will now move back into the Top 4 with a peak of No. 3 if he wins on Sunday. Murray met the press after the impressive win to talk about the match.
Q. Tell us what it means to be in your fourth Australian Open final, eighth of your career Grand Slam final?
ANDY MURRAY: It’s great. I played very, very well tonight. Very happy with the way that I played the match. And, yeah, to be in the final four times here, I mean, because I’m surrounded by guys like Roger, Novak and Rafa, doesn’t look like much, but that doesn’t happen that often. So I’m very proud of that.
Q. Talk us through what changed between the first and second sets, so different.
ANDY MURRAY: Well, I thought the beginning of the match he started out well. I was a little bit tentative at the beginning and getting used to his ball. He hits the ball extremely hard and flat. At the start I felt like I was on the back foot a little bit. Towards the end of the first set I started to come into it more, be more aggressive. Then second set I just picked up from how I was playing at the end of the first. I felt like I could have won the first set. Obviously had some chances there. I was extremely aggressive in the second set. Managed to run away with it.
Q. When did you last break a string?
ANDY MURRAY: No, I mean, it happens to me occasionally. I mean, sometimes when you don’t hit the ball in the right spot, you know, the string can break up at the top of the racquet. And on that shot it broke actually quite high up on the racquet. And, yeah, it was just bad timing, bad luck for that to happen.
Q. What was the issue with the balls in the first set?
ANDY MURRAY: I don’t know. He was the one that had the issue with the balls. It wasn’t me.
Q. That was one of sort of several incidents. Felt like a very incident-packed first set. What happened at the change after the end of the first set? You said to the umpire that he said something to you as he walked past.
ANDY MURRAY: Yeah, I don’t know what he said, but he said something literally as we were walking right past each other change of ends. I don’t know exactly what he said. I just told the umpire that he said something to me and that was it.
Q. You mentioned in the on-court interview there was a lot of extra tension related to Dani.
ANDY MURRAY: Guys wanted there to be. You wanted there to be tension. It’s completely normal for that to happen. I sat in here the other day and got asked more questions about Dani than I did about the match I just played. So you wanted there to be tension. Yeah, because of everything that’s gone on it’s kind of a natural thing to happen. If you learn how the brain works, it’s completely natural for that. So kind of expected, and, yeah, had planned for that to be the case as well.
Q. You handled it a bit better than he did. He seemed to get a bit distracted.
ANDY MURRAY: No, it was only in the first set was there tension, like right at the beginning of the match. Then obviously like even at the end of that, like during the tiebreak, there was nothing. It wasn’t like there was loads going on there. Then, yeah, obviously at the end of the set, yeah, when he said something, that was really the last thing in the entire match where there was any tension. It was fine after that.
Q. In cricket there’s sledging all the time. Comments between players when they change over, is that rare in tennis?
ANDY MURRAY: Well, I think the thing is because there’s cameras and microphones everywhere players don’t say stuff to the opponents. And then, yeah, we have to come in here after every match, and then if we said something you end up speaking about it the whole time. Whereas in cricket, I wouldn’t imagine all the players that say stuff to each other, everything gets picked up. They don’t broadcast everything players say to each other. Obviously players aren’t going to say stuff because it causes them — or they end up having to spend a lot of time explaining themselves. The reality is that when you have two people competing against each other and there’s a bit of tension there, it’s very natural for things to happen.
Q. You pointed to your camp at the end of the match. Do you credit them with a bigger role in this victory more than others?
ANDY MURRAY: No. I said the other day, I got asked all the time about my ex-coach working with Tomas and no one was interested in anything I was doing with AmÃ©lie or the way I was playing or anything. A lot of people were also criticizing her at the end of last year, like the way I was playing was her fault when I’d spent two weeks training with her up to the end of the year, until the training block. You can’t change things during tournaments. There was very little time to spend with each other. Yeah, there’s no reason for her to be criticized for anything, because she —
ANDY MURRAY: Well, I don’t know if that’s what it is, but I just very happy for her that I won the match tonight.
Q. Kim inadvertently cost you a time violation at one point. She was caught on camera using some Anglo-Saxon adjectives. Is that something you were aware of?
ANDY MURRAY: I was told about that.
Q. What’s your reaction to that?
ANDY MURRAY: Again, when there’s a lot of tension surrounding something, which you created, then it’s completely normal that, yeah, the whole first set everyone was tight. My physical trainer, physio, I’m sure for Dani it was uncomfortable. Even Tomas, who very rarely says anything on the court, there was tension there for him, as well. Yeah, in the heat of the moment you can say stuff that you regret. And, yeah, that’s it.
Q. Tomas called it a battle from the baseline. Given that you’ve won that, how well are you positioned going into Sunday?
ANDY MURRAY: Well, obviously feel good because I thought I played well tonight. And, yeah, the most important thing in tennis matches, you need to be able to make adjustments and change when things aren’t going well. That’s one of the things that we didn’t really speak about the other day. Everyone can go into a match with game plans and ideas of how they want to play. I was trying to explain that if someone thinks that I’m going to come out and look at the court and do something, if I do something completely different, if I start serving and volleying, then you have to change and adjust your tactics based on what your opponent’s doing. I felt like tonight I made some big adjustments in the match from how things were going at the start. I’ll need to do the same thing again on the Sunday against Novak or Stan, because things that you think will work doesn’t always work out that way. You need to be able to make adjustments in the middle of the match. That’s where it doesn’t necessarily always come down to the coach. It has to come down to the individual as well, because we can’t get coaching during the match. We have to be able to make adjustments ourselves, and that’s one of the things I was most pleased about tonight, because I thought after that first set I changed the way I was playing and turned the match in my favor.
Q. In the wake of all that attention, you lose a tiebreak. To come out and win the second set, that kind of for, is that what you’ve been looking for all this time to reach that level?
ANDY MURRAY: Well, I mean, I said after spending the off-season with Amelie and working on a bunch of things, having a sustained sort of period together, I did a great training block. I worked extremely hard physically in the off-season. Obviously a couple of the guys that were there with me spoke to you about that. Yeah, I worked well to give myself the opportunity to play like this. The way that I feel today compared with how I felt after losing in four sets last year, I could barely move at the end of the match because I was so sore and stiff. I felt strong at the end today.
Q. How much, if any, do the last three finals come into your thinking ahead of Sunday?
ANDY MURRAY: Well, like I said, obviously losing in the finals is disappointing. But making four finals is a very, very difficult thing to do. It’s not easy to do. And, yeah, I’m proud of my record here. I’ll try my best on Sunday. I’ll go in with best tactics possible, prepare well, couple days’ rest, recover as best as I can. And, yeah, all I can do is give my best. If it’s enough, great. If not, I literally couldn’t have done anything more to put myself in a better position come Sunday.
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