STATISTICS, it is said, can be used to justify any argument, but the weight of data in Andy Murray’s favour ahead of the Briton’s Australian Open semi-final against Roger Federer today is compelling.
The US Open champion has enjoyed the better of their 19 encounters and won nine of their 17 meetings on hard courts, while his progress to the last four has been unfettered by a single dropped set.
Yet to reach Sunday’s final, where world No1 Novak Djokovic awaits, Murray will have to achieve a significant first: beating Federer, the second seed, in a grand slam.
Three times they have met at major tournaments, three times in the final, and three times the Swiss has won, for the loss of just one set in last summer’s emotional climax to Wimbledon.
But that match proved something of a turning point for the Scot. A hitherto lukewarm British public embraced him and he returned to Centre Court weeks later to thrash Federer and claim Olympic gold.
Murray’s biggest title yet was a watershed moment and has palpably galvanised the 25-year-old, who followed London 2012 success by becoming Britain’s first grand slam champion since 1936 in New York the following month.
His unfussy procession through the draw in Melbourne lends weight to arguments that this is a new, more confident Murray, at last unintimidated by going toe to toe with the best on the biggest stage.
Federer himself praised Murray’s more assertive game this week, while trying to brush off fears that his own five-set win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had left him drained.
Murray, by contrast, should stride out at the Rod Laver Arena at 8:30am British time in peak condition and with good reason to believe he can finally end Federer’s grand slam hex.