Melbourne: Roger Federer is bidding to maintain his Grand Slam dominance over a rejuvenated Andy Murray in their much-anticipated semi-final showdown at the Australian Open on Friday.
Federer trails the British world number three 10-9 in their matches, yet significantly the Swiss great has claimed all three of their Grand Slam exchanges, all in finals, with two of them leaving Murray in tears.
Murray sobbed after pushing Federer to three hard-fought sets in the 2010 Australian final, and at Wimbledon last year the Scot wept during his on-court interview, blubbering the words “getting closer”.
It all changed for Murray with his breakthrough triumph over Novak Djokovic at last September’s US Open final to become the first British man in 76 years to win a Grand Slam.
Federer, at 31, is looking to add to his record 17 Grand Slam victories but Murray looms as a major obstacle ahead of Sunday’s final against Djokovic, who crushed David Ferrer in straight sets in Thursday’s semi-final.
“I don’t go into it with a mindset that I’ve never lost to him in Slams,” Federer said. “He’s beaten me so many times. He’s beaten me more times than I’ve beaten him.
“I’ll try to remember that when I walk out, but it doesn’t play a huge role for me.”
Federer said although Murray has changed to a more offensive style under the coaching of taskmaster Ivan Lendl, he is looking forward to the tactical battle.
“I always enjoyed the match-ups with him because it gets to be very tactical, it wasn’t a straightforward match,” he said.
“He would make you doubt and play very different to the rest of the guys. I always enjoyed that when it’s just not every point’s the same. We used to mix it up against each other.
“Now it’s changed a bit because he’s playing more offensive. The rallies aren’t as long and gruelling as they used to be. We both can do that.”
Federer, who needed five match points before overcoming French seventh-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a five-set quarter-final, is into his 10th straight Australian semi-final among a record 33 appearances in the last four of a Grand Slam.
He is bidding to become only the second man to win five Australian titles, after Australia’s Roy Emerson won six in the 1960s.
Murray, a runner-up twice in Australia, has yet to drop a set in the tournament and has been on court almost two hours less than Federer in reaching the semi-final.
His quarter-final win over Frenchman Jeremy Chardy took his winning streak at the majors to 12, including his US Open triumph, and he will be playing in his 12th Grand Slam semi-final.
“For me the Chardy match was a decent test. I played a lot of tennis in December. I had some good (lead-up) matches in Brisbane. So I can’t be disappointed about being in the semis of a Slam without dropping a set. That would be silly,” Murray said.
“I think you have to trust yourself that when you are tested you’re going to play better tennis. You never know for sure. But in the build-up to the tournament I played very well. I haven’t lost a set here yet.
“I’ve done a good job so far in this tournament. I can’t be disappointed with where my game’s at and I hope the next round I play better again.”
Murray is on a nine-match winning run so far this year after defending his Brisbane title and is looking to become the only first-time Grand Slam winner to immediately claim a second major at the next opportunity.
“I feel probably a little bit calmer maybe than usual,” Murray said. “But I still have an understanding of how difficult it is to win these events.
“With the players that are still left in the tournament, it’s going to be a very tough, tough few days if I want to do that.”