Britain's Andy Murray believes he is close to achieving the glory of a third grand slam title as he bids to reach the final of a tournament that has caused him more anguish than perhaps any other.
Murray takes on Canadian 13th seed Milos Raonic on Friday morning in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, where the Scot has reached the final four times in the last six years only to suffer defeat on each occasion.
The 28-year-old’s last grand slam triumph was the career-defining Wimbledon success of 2013, since when he has been hampered by a persistent back injury and a split with coach Ivan Lendl.
But last season proved a renaissance of sorts for a fit-again Murray aided by a new backroom team of Amelie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman, and he fancies that he is now back to his major title-winning best.
“After a tough year in 2014 I’m now established again at the top of the game and giving myself chances, and that’s all I can keep doing,” he said.
“You want to try to get to the latter stages to give yourself the opportunity. Obviously you want to win these events, that’s why I’m still playing. I’m two matches away potentially here and I’ll give it my best in the next few days.”
Lying in wait in the final is ominously in-form defending champion Novak Djokovic, who today doled out the kind of thrashing to Roger Federer normally reserved for qualifiers, not 17-time grand slam winners.
But first Murray must overcome Raonic, the Montenegro-born, 6ft 5in powerhouse who has already ended fourth seed Stan Wawrinka’s hopes of a second Australian Open triumph.
Raonic, 25, is one of the few players not to have an inferior head-to-head record with Murray, both men having won three times apiece, and has prevailed in both of their previous matches on outdoor hard courts.
Murray must also put aside the distractions of impending fatherhood – he has vowed to abandon the tournament if wife Kim goes into labour prematurely – and the illness of his father in law Nigel Sears.
Should he do so and beat Raonic he would match the progress of elder sibling Jamie, who yesterday reached the men’s doubles final with Brazilian playing partner Bruno Soares.
Djokovic remained on course for a sixth Australian Open title and a fifth in six years with a surprisingly one-sided 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 dismantling of former world No1 Federer.
The Serb has lost just one match at this event since 2010 and has been responsible for Murray’s last three defeat in the final, in which he never dropped more than one set.