ANDY MURRAY insists he is ready to clinch a maiden Grand Slam title after sending Rafael Nadal crashing out of the Australian Open in a late-night thriller in Melbourne.
The fifth seed looked in imperious form as he stormed into a 6-3, 7-6 (7-2), 3-0 lead before defending champion Nadal was forced to retire from their quarter-final after suffering a recurrence of a knee problem.
Murray now faces giant Croatian Marin Cilic in tomorrow’s semi-final and the Scot, still yet to drop a set in the tournament, believes he is on course to break his Slam duck.
“Now, I am ready to win a Slam, and hopefully, I can do it here,” the 22-year-old said. “I am going to give myself opportunities to win Grand Slams and that’s why I work hard and why I play tennis. I didn’t have my best day against Cilic at the US Open but I’ve played him quite a few times on the tour and had good results against him. If I play like I did against Rafa then I have a good chance of winning.”
Murray is looking to appear in his second Grand Slam final, following his US Open efforts in 2008, and, ultimately, to become the first Brit to win a Slam since Fred Perry in 1936.
And Nadal, who has six Slams to his name at just a year older than the Scot, believes it’s only a matter of time before Murray achieves it.
“Andy deserves to win his first Grand Slam and he is going to do it,” Nadal said. “I think this is a very good chance for him because he’s playing really well and already in the semi-finals. Before the match I said he is a very complete player. He is playing at an unbelievable level. I was playing one of the best players in the world.”
Nadal retired from the contest with the same knee problem that prevented him defending his Wimbledon title last year, and Murray admitted he was “gutted” for his rival.
“I’ve known Rafa since I was 13 or 14 and he’s somebody I’ve always looked up to,” he said. “He’s my favourite player to watch because of his energy and I’m gutted for him. I came through a few difficult moments at the start but I played well and I got my tactics right.”
Cilic, meanwhile, managed to hold off a fightback from American seventh seed Andy Roddick for his first Grand Slam semi-final appearance, eventually coming through 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3.
For Cilic, it was a tenth straight victory of the year but the third time he has been taken to five sets this week.
“It wasn’t easy,” he explained. “I got experience of it during the week. I just had a few extra gears in the last set.”
STAT ATTACK | HOW THEY COMPARED
59% First serve 67%
13 Aces 1
25 Unforced errors 26
77% 1st serve % 63%
45% 2ns serve % 42%
38 Winners 23
44% Receiving pts won 36%
40% Break point conversions 17%
79% Net approaches 87%
94 Total points won 75
216kph Fastest serve speed 199kph
193kph Average 1st serve 175kph
152kph Average 2nd serve 143kph