BRITAIN’S Andy Murray has played down the threat of Tomas Berdych’s insider knowledge after setting up an Australian Open semi-final against the in-form Czech.
Murray made swift work of ending a 15,000 sell-out Melbourne crowd’s hopes of a famous home victory by thrashing 19-year-old rising star Nick Kyrgios in straight sets yesterday.
The Scot, seeded sixth, did not face a break point until his penultimate service game in the 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 win, arguably his best display since the back problems that hampered his 2013 season.
But he can expect a sterner test tomorrow from Berdych, who showed no mercy in despatching Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-0, 7-6 (7-5) and is yet to drop a set at the tournament.
Seventh seed Berdych can also draw on unique insight into Murray’s weaknesses, having hired his former long-term aide Dani Vallverdu as coach last month.
Since then he has reached the final of the Qatar Open and yesterday praised the impact of Vallverdu, saying he had “changed a lot of things”, though Murray is unruffled.
“We’ll see how the match plays out and what the tactics are,” he said. “But I also know what Dani thinks of Berdych’s game because he’s told me, so it works both ways.”
Murray, who is aiming to become the first man to win the Australian Open after losing the final three times, also played down the poignancy of facing Vallverdu, who only left his camp in November.
“Maybe I’ll find it weird on the day,” he added. “It’s just something that you deal with as a player. My goal isn’t to beat Dani; my goal is to beat Berdych. So I don’t think about that in the next days.”
Women’s second seed Maria Sharapova teed up an all-Russian semi-final against Ekaterina Makarova with a 6-3, 6-2 triumph over seventh seed Eugenie Bouchard.
Makarova, seeded 10th, needed just 69 minutes to defeat third seed Simona Halep and reach her second consecutive grand slam semi-final.
The remaining men’s and women’s quarter-finals are due to take place today.
HOW IT’S SHAPING UP
Thursday: Tomas Berdych v Andy Murray
Friday: Novak Djokovic or Milos Raonic v Stan Wawrinka or Kei Nishikori
Thursday: Ekaterina Makarova v Maria Sharapova
Friday: Serena Williams or Dominika Cibulkova v Madison Keys or Venus Williams