World No 2 Andy Murray celebrated a day of rare British success on Wednesday after he outlasted Spain’s David Ferrer to join compatriot Johanna Konta in the Australian Open semifinals.
Murray, the four-time runner-up, saw off the tenacious Ferrer 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-3 in three hours, 20 minutes to set up a clash with Milos Raonic on Friday.
It was Murray’s sixth Australian Open semifinal and 18th overall in the Grand Slams, as he attempts to go one better after finishing runner-up at four of the last six editions in Melbourne.
But for the first time, Murray has British company in the tournament’s final stages after Konta downed China’s Zhang Shuai to become the first British woman to a reach a Grand Slam semifinal since 1983.
It is the first time that two British singles players – man or woman – have featured in the last four at the same Grand Slam event since John Lloyd and Sue Barker at the 1977 Australian Open.
And adding further lustre to the British day to remember, Murray’s brother Jamie reached the men’s doubles semifinals with his Brazilian partner Bruno Soares.
Murray said it was a special time for British tennis, after he also led his country to Davis Cup glory against Belgium in November – the first time they have won the tournament since 1936.
“It’s pretty good for us to have people competing in almost all of the competitions. So, yeah, it’s been a good Australian Open so far. Hopefully we can keep it going,” Murray said after his win.
“It’s unlikely that everyone is going to win the events, but to be in this position is great.
“It’s really, really good for tennis on the back end of last year with the Davis Cup as well. Extremely positive. Just got to try and capitalise on it.”
Ferrer proved a difficult proposition for Murray, relentlessly slugging it out from the baseline and keeping the Scot working hard in a physically demanding match.
Murray appeared to benefit in the change to the slower court conditions when the roof was closed on Rod Laver Arena in the third set ahead of an approaching thunderstorm.
“When the roof closed, I was up a break in the third and was feeling good,” he said. “That first game after the delay was a very important. I saved a couple of break points, but then actually played a good game.
“So it was nice to get through that game. Then I felt like I started to play better as the match went on.”
Murray, who has noticeably boosted his previously weaker second serve, extended his record over Ferrer to 13-6.
The Spanish baseliner made 17 errors on the way to dropping the opening set in 45 minutes following a service break in the fourth game.
In a titanic second set, Murray double-faulted on break point to go 0-2 down before breaking back in the seventh game when Ferrer’s forehand was well out.
Ferrer had the better of the tiebreak, including winning a memorable 31-shot rally, and he claimed it on his first set point when Murray’s forehand was wide.
Murray got a crucial early break in the third set before play was temporarily delayed to close the stadium roof.
The world No 2 looked better suited to the slower court speed in the indoor conditions, and he broke Ferrer again in the eighth game to take a two sets to one lead.
Murray grabbed another break early in the fourth set when Ferrer’s running backhand crosscourt was just wide.
He handed back the break in the next game but then broke Ferrer in the sixth and went on to take it on his first match point, with a wide serve forcing Ferrer’s return out.