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British lion roars on as imperious Murray eyes his place in history

AUSTRALIAN OPEN

ANDY MURRAY believes he can etch his name into British tennis history by landing a maiden Grand Slam victory at the Australian Open.

The British No1 recovered from a set down to beat Croatian giant Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 and set up a Melbourne showdown with either world No1 Roger Federer or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Sunday.

It will be Murray’s second Grand Slam final appearance following his defeat to Federer in the 2008 US Open, and takes him to within one win of becoming Britain’s first Slam champion since Fred Perry in 1936.

The Scot fully expects Swiss star Federer to come through today’s last four clash with Tsonga, but believes he is playing well enough to topple the 15-time Slam champion.

“I would expect Roger to come through and he’s so good in Slam finals but if I go out there and play my best I think I’ve got a chance of winning and it’s really exciting,” the 22-year-old said. “It’s important against both [Federer or Tsonga] to be solid. Both of them can go through phases where they play unbelievable and you need to keep your level.”

Murray goes into the match with one more day’s rest than his opponent, while keeping court time to a minimum having only dropped one set in the entire tournament.

That was the opener against Cilic yesterday with the 6ft 6in Croatian clearly enjoying his first Grand Slam semi-final experience, producing a combination of booming serves and powerful forehands to put Murray on the rack.

Finally, he broke in the fifth game and, after a run of 14 consecutive points, saw out the set with a second break. Murray, however, weathered the storm and after stunning the Croatian with an outrageous forehand winner in the fifth game of the second set, the match turned on its head as Murray served out to level at a set apiece.

Cilic, by now, had played almost 21 hours on court for the tournament and it began to show as the fresher Murray made inroads on the Cilic serve and started to make his opponent work. A break in the seventh game of the third set culminated in the Scot going 2-1 ahead and from then it was a formality as the fifth seed earned two more breaks of serve in the fourth to ensure he became the first Brit since John Lloyd in 1977 to reach the Melbourne final.

Murray, however, was full of praise for weary Cilic. He added: “Marin showed incredible guts. He made it so tough for me and he was so clearly tired after his hard week.”

STAT ATTACK | HOW THEY COMPARED
MURRAY CILIC
63% First serve 56%
5 Aces 6
1 Double Faults 6
29 Unforced errors 54
76% 1st serve winners % 70%
57% 2nd serve winners % 44%
40 Winners 35
39% Receiving pts won 31%
31% Break point conversions 33%
69% Net approaches 63%
125 Total points won 106
207kph Fastest serve speed 205kph
183kph Average 1st serve 189kph
148kph Average 2nd serve 148kph