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Now it’s Murray’s turn

Ferrer stands between Briton and a place in final as Federer crashes out

BRITISH No1 Andy Murray heads into this morning’s Australian Open semi-final looking to take a huge step towards completing a memorable sporting double Down Under this winter.

Following on from England’s first Ashes series win in Australia since 1987, Murray is just two matches away from becoming the first British man to win a grand slam event since Fred Perry in 1936.

The 23-year-old’s odds of succeeding in Melbourne shortened again yesterday when Roger Federer, who dismantled Murray in last year’s final, followed world No1 Rafael Nadal in exiting at the semi-final stage in straight sets.

Between them, Switzerland’s Federer (inset) and Spaniard Nadal have monopolised the top prizes in recent years.

Indeed of the last 26 grand slam events played between 2010 and 2004 the world’s top two have won an astonishing 23 of them.

With that duo out of the way, Murray, who has dropped just one set en route to the last four, has been presented with a golden opportunity to finally break his duck in the majors.

Blocking his path to glory are David Ferrer, who took advantage of Nadal’s injured hamstring on Wednesday to record a shock win, and 2008 Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic.

While a final against the Serb would still represent a massive hurdle for Murray to overcome, the Scot also cannot afford to take his eye off the ball against Ferrer, who has proved an awkward customer in the past.

The 27-year-old has a positive 3-2 head-to-head record against Murray, although all three of his victories were on clay. Moreover, the left-hander hasn’t reached the business end of a grand slam event since the 2007 US Open semi-final.

Murray, due on court at 08.30 this morning, by contrast, is now well used to these showpiece occasions and is hoping that his experience stands him in good stead.

“I know how to deal with playing deep into grand slams now,” said Murray. “How to get prepared for them mentally and physically, it’s something I am much better at.

“There are some great players left so it’s exciting to be a part of it and I just hope I can come through.”

Federer, meanwhile, insists his days of grand slam success are far from finished, despite surrendering 7-6 (7/3), 7-5, 6-4 against Djokovic.

When it was put to him that his and Nadal’s failure to reach the final was the first time that has happened at a major since here in 2008, Federer said: “They say that very quickly. Let’s talk again in six months’ time. It’s not the end in any way.”

BRITAIN’S TENNIS CLASS OF ’87

Last time England won the Ashes Down Under their success was not reflected in the performances of Brits at the Australian Open.

MEN’S FIRST ROUND
D Derlin bt A Castle (6-7, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1).

MEN’S SECOND ROUND
M Edmondson bt N Fulwood (6-4, 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 9-7); M Mecir bt J Bates (4-6, 6-2, 6-1 6-3).

WOMEN’S SECOND ROUND
K Bassett bt J Salmon (6-1, 6-1).

WOMEN’S FOURTH ROUND
L McNeil bt A Hobbs (6-4, 6-2).

KNOW YOUR ENEMY

DAVID FERRER
Age: 27
From: Spain
World Ranking: 7
Record v Murray: Won 3; Lost 2.
Previous Aus Open Best: SF 2007

NOVAK DJOKOVIC
Age: 23
From: Serbia
World Ranking: 3
Record v Murray: Won 4; Lost 3.
Previous Aus Open Best: W 2008