The Malta Independent 11 December 2016, Sunday

Murray beats Raonic in five sets to reach fifth Australian Open final

Associated Press Friday, 29 January 2016, 14:43 Last update: about 12 months ago

Andy Murray reached the Australian Open final for the fifth time, setting up a more anxious wait than ever to see if he can finally break his drought at Melbourne Park.

No. 2-ranked Murray had a 4-6, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-2 win over No. 13-seeded Milos Raonic in a momentum-swinging match that finished just before midnight.

Murray, who has lost all four previous finals he has contested at Melbourne Park, will play the championship decider on Sunday night against five-time champion Novak Djokovic, who has never lost a title match on Rod Laver Arena.

Three of Djokovic's wins in Australia have come in finals against his old friend Murray, every odd-numbered year since 2011.

"He loves playing on this court — we've played a bunch of times here," Murray said. "Hopefully it can be a different result."

Murray has had a lot on his mind this time. His wife, Kim, is back in Britain and due to have their first baby next month. Kim's father, Nigel Sears, was in Melbourne as coach for Ana Ivanovic and had to be rushed to a hospital by ambulance during one of her matches on Rod Laver Arena, which happened to coincide with Murray's fourth-round match on an adjacent arena.

Sears spent a night in hospital, with Murray visiting, but was considered well enough to return home, giving Murray at least one less reason to be distracted.

He had plenty to contend with against Raonic, who was playing in only his second Grand Slam semifinal, and aiming to be the first Canadian man to reach the final of a major. He started well and twice had leads on Murray at 1-0 and 2-1, but was hampered by an adductor problem in his upper right leg from late in the third set. He needed a medical time out, and later in the fourth set had a massage from the trainer.

"I couldn't push off, I couldn't get up to serve, and I couldn't change direction," Raonic said. "Probably the most heartbroken I've felt on court."

After having his serve broken to open the fifth set, Raonic walked back to his chair and angrily smashed his racket on the hard court surface twice, breaking it. Murray went on a run of winning 20 of 25 points to go ahead 4-0 and all but clinch the four-hour match.

Raonic finished with 78 unforced errors, 50 more than Murray, but also hit 72 winners to 38.

Murray said he sensed Raonic slowing down, but had to keep his mind on his own side of the court.

He'll have to do that again on Sunday night against Djokovic, who won 27 of his 28 matches in Grand Slams in 2015 — his only loss coming in the French Open final.

"I need to keep my game plan very well, not have any lapses in concentration and just play the best I can," said Murray, who has won just nine of his 30 career meetings with Djokovic.

Murray's older brother Jamie is in the doubles final on Saturday, giving the Scottish siblings the distinction of being the first brothers to appear in the singles and doubles finals at the same major in the Open era. The men's doubles decider follows the women's final between six-time champion Serena Williams and No. 7-seeded Angelique Kerber.

Jamie Murray will combine with Bruno Soares in the men's doubles title match against Daniel Nestor and Radek Stepanek.

In the earlier women's doubles final, the No. 1-ranked team of Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza beat the Czech pair of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 7-6 (1), 6-3 to extend their winning streak to 36 matches on the way to a third Grand Slam title together.

Hingis and Mirza won the Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles last year.

Mirza couldn't extend her run in mixed doubles, losing with her partner Ivan Dodig of Croatia 7-5, 7-6 (4) to Elena Vesnina and Soares in the semifinals later Friday. Vesnina and Soares will play American Coco Vandeweghe and Horia Tecau of Romania in Sunday's final.

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