Jul 5 2012 By Colin Mackenzie
Andy Murray's fourth Wimbledon semi-final was achieved against The Wall, Spain's David Ferrer, with all the suspense and tension of a Tim Henman visit to the Centre Court.
It was never going to be easy against the man from Javea - and it wasn't as the match veered towards four hours in length.
In the end it was a matter of a point here and a point there. After Ferrer collared the opening set 7-6 in a tiebreak that he won 7 points to 5 it looked like a repeat in the second set when the gutsy Spaniard went 5 pts to 2 ahead. But he was reckoning without the skill and commitment of tennis's Braveheart who began to serve and rally with the courage of his race.
Finally Murray edged the second tiebreak by eight points to six. Had he forfeited it there would have been a very long road ahead against a man who rallies for fun and is never knowingly undersold by his fitness. Happily Murray upped his game in the third set, hitting his ground shots very low over the net and relying on his 130mph plus serves, the only department in which he could outgun the World No 5 player.
Even in the fourth set Ferrer showed little sign of fatigue or loss of heart as he battled fiercely. It took a supreme effort from Murray who was always edging this tiebreak to prevail, his winning moment coming when he launched a 135mph ace past the Spaniard on match point.
This truly was a dish to set before the future King (Prince William together with his wife the Duchess of Cambridge). But it was tennis royalty in the persons of Steffi Graf, her husband Andre Agassi and the legend that is Rod Laver that truly impressed Murray.
Afterwards he said; "Obviously the goal is to win the next match and get through to the final for the first time. What's happened in the past is not something I'm happy with. I want to try to go further. I'm in a good position but I've been in this position a few times now and I want to push on.
"Now that I'm here I'm not thinking - great I'm in the semi finals - I want to try to go further. I'd be disappointed if I lost before the Final. Jo (Wilfried Tsonga) is a tough opponent. He has served very well in this tournament. I need to focus on what I do well against him and what's worked in the past.
"I've come close a lot of times and not quite made it. I just have to keep putting myself in that position and hopefully it will click."
And so say all of us. Should he defeat Tsonga he would become the first from these isles to be in a men's final since Fred Perry's doubles partner Bunny Austin who lost in the 1938 Final. By that time Perry, who won three times from 1934-6, had turned professional.
Tsonga, who lost in the 2011 semi final against Novak Djokovic, does not particularly like playing Murray who has an uncanny knack of returning one of the best serves in the game. Yesterday the Frenchman beat Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber in four sets, in a match which failed to hit the heights of Murray's Centre Court encounter with Ferrer.
Murray has a career record of five victories and one defeat against the man from Le Mans. Tsonga, exuberant and popular among tennis fans, will have to up his level of consistency to better Murray in long rallies. But he can remember having a match point against the Scot in last year's final at Queen's Club, the leadup tournament to Wimbledon.
Tsonga said; "Andy is one of those players I don't like to play. He's returning really well and he can play some really good passing shots. He's really quick and he's all the time on the ball. It is so tough for me. I will have a chance, I mean, on 100 per cent I will have less than him but I will have some and I will try to take it."
The other quarter finals were far more predictable and routine with Roger Federer going through the motions to beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in just over 90 minutes and Novak Djokovic having little more difficulty in dispatching Florian Mayer, another German, by 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.
The pair now meet in the other semi final, curiously enough for the first time at Wimbledon. Djokovic has won their last three encounters, although Federer, who looked utterly imperious yesterday, rued his chances in last year's US Open when he had two match points.
Today it is the women's turn with Angelique Kerber and Agnieszka Radwanska first on Centre Court. The German has the power, but perhaps not the belief, while the Pole has the consistency and the ranking (World No 3) to call on. It's not an easy result to call.
In the second semi final Serena Williams, four times Wimbledon champion, will seek to better her 7-1 career record against rising Belorussian Victoria Azarenka. All tournament Williams, who initially appeared overweight and unfit, has been steadily improving. Yesterday she played and won two doubles matches with her sister Venus.
Azarenka, who won the Australian Open in January, has also improved this year. Much will depend upon whether she can control the rallies and get Williams moving from side to side as she did against her previous opponents. If she can tire out the 30-year-old American she could prevail.
Williams is the last American in the tournament which has been dominated by Europeans in sharp contrast to earlier decades. The Americans, the Australians and the South Americans are starting to lag behind. This is demonstrated among the juniors too and has to be a worrying phenomenon for those tennis playing nations.