Andy MURRAY is ready to make a grand slam breakthrough, according to the man who he beat to reach his fourth successive Wimbledon semi-final.
The Scot came through a near four-hour battle against ultra tough Spaniard David Ferrer 6-7(5), 7-6(6), 6-4, 7-6(4) on Centre Court yesterday and tomorrow will face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Not since Bunny Austin in 1938 has Britain had a men’s singles finalist at the All England Club, while it was two years before that when Fred Perry became the last home player to win it.
World No. 5 Ferrer said: “Of course Andy Murray has a chance to win Wimbledon. He’s an unbelievable player. He deserves to win a grand slam.”
A home Wimbledon finalist has become something of a British obsession, with Tim Henman getting to the semi- finals four times but never going further.
Murray has now equalled that tally, but hopes are even higher this year because the man on the other side of the net on Friday will not be two-time champion Rafael Nadal, who has beaten the Scot the past two years.
Murray’s other opportunity came three years ago, when he was 22 and the favourite to beat Andy Roddick only to lose to the American in four sets.
There are parallels, with Tsonga a player Murray has a good record against having beaten him five times out of six, but the Frenchman certainly possesses the weapons to upset the odds.
Tsonga booked his place in the semis by defeating Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-2 yesterday.
Murray was reluctant to describe this as his best chance, saying: “I think when I played Roddick in the semis was also a good chance.
“I had a good record against him before the match. He did play unbelievable in the semis, and especially in the final that year.
“I’m in a good position, that’s for sure. Whether it’s the best chance or not, I’m not sure. But I’ve been in this position a few times now and want to push on.”
For long spells of the match it looked like it would be another near miss for Murray, who had to fight back from perilous positions on three occasions in the second set.
First Ferrer broke to lead 5-4 only for his opponent to respond in kind, while Murray then fought back from 5-2 down in the tie-break and saved a set point to level the match.
That relieved the tension and, although it was never comfortable in the third and fourth sets, the Scot just had the edge.
Ferrer said: “I think the key was in the second set, when I had 5-4 and then one set point in the tie-break.
“But Andy, in the important moments he played really good. He played more aggressive than me, and he was better. Even if I was two sets up, it would be difficult to beat Andy because he is playing very good.”
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and six-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer will square off in the other men’s semi-final tomorrow after both secured a seamless passage into the last four.
Federer romped to a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win over Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny, while Djokovic found it slightly harder against German Florian Mayer, winning 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.
The women’s semi-finals were due to be played this afternoon, with third seed Agnieska Radwanksa up against eighth seed Angelique Kerber first, followed by second seed Victoria Azarenka’s clash with sixth seed Serena Williams.
In the men’s doubles, Brit Jonathan Marray made the semi-finals alongside his Danish partner Frederik Nielsen after the pair defeated Edouard Roger-Vasselin and James Cerretani 7-6(5), 7-6(4), 6-7(3), 2-6, 6-2.
They will face the formidable American duo of Mike and Bob Bryan tomorrow for a place in the final.