Andy Murray beats Marin Cilic in Australian Open semis
AUSTRALIAN OPEN FINAL - Murray v Federer Venue: Melbourne Park Date/time: 0830 GMT, Sun 31 January BBC coverage:
Live on BBC One, HD, BBC Sport website and BBC Radio 5 live
Murray turned the match around with one inspirational winner
By Piers Newbery
Andy Murray reached the second Grand Slam final of his career after recovering from a slow start to beat Marin Cilic at the Australian Open.
The Briton, 22, came through 3-6 6-4 6-4 6-2 in three hours and one minute.
And Murray, who reached the 2008 US Open final, is again just one victory from ending Britain's 74-year wait for a male Grand Slam singles champion.
In Sunday's final he will play the winner of Friday's second semi between Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
After the electric atmosphere of the Scot's quarter-final win over defending champion Rafael Nadal on Tuesday, the semi-final began in an altogether more low-key mood.
But after dropping the first set Murray stopped Cilic in his tracks with an incredible winner to break in the second, before taking a grip on the match with his returns and dominating from the baseline.
He made it so tough for me and he was so clearly tired after his hard week. After losing the first set I just went for my shots
Murray went into the match with the edge in experience, having already played major semi-finals in New York and at Wimbledon, while the 21-year-old Cilic was making his debut on such a stage.
The Scot also had a 3-1 head-to-head record against the Croat, but their last meeting remained fresh in the memory as Cilic had swept to a straight-sets win at Flushing Meadows last year.
But Murray has been in spectacular form in Melbourne, making the last four without dropping a set, while Cilic had needed five sets to win three of his matches.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the 6ft 6in number 14 seed made the slower start and did well to fend off two break points in his opening service game, the second with a deft lob volley, but there were to be plenty more chances for both men.
Cilic looked to have let a golden opportunity slip by when a 0-40 lead disappeared at 2-2 but Murray finally cracked in a lengthy game, sending a forehand long on the fifth break point.
Crucially, the Croat managed to hold on when he faced similar pressure from Murray in his next service game, seeing off three break points - the last with a dead net cord.
Murray looked increasingly subdued as the minutes passed and he handed over the opening set by dropping serve again, this time to love.
When he finally angled away a forehand volley in game two of the second set it stopped a run of 14 straight points against the Briton.
Cilic was beginning to dominate on serve and Murray needed inspiration - he found it in spectacular fashion.
After working his way to break point at 2-2 the Scot seemed to have lost out to another Cilic net cord, but Murray chased it down, hared back to cover the subsequent lob, and spun round to hit a blistering forehand winner past his opponent at the net.
The tension of the previous 75 minutes disappeared with a lung-bursting scream and Murray had found his form, almost breaking again at 4-2 but seeing out the set on serve.
Murray appeared to have well and truly wrestled the initiative from his opponent when he moved ahead with a break at 2-1 in the third, only to see Cilic take it straight back with a forehand pass in the next game.
But after the lacklustre start to the match Murray was now making regular inroads with his return of serve, and Cilic could do nothing to prevent another break in game seven.
The world number four was moving his man around expertly with the backhand and, despite missing a couple of set points on the Cilic serve, he played a confident game to move two sets to one ahead.
Cilic was now approaching 21 hours on court for the tournament and he looked a tired man when a wild double-fault gave up another break at 2-1 in the fourth set, before Murray made all but sure with a forehand winner for the double-break soon after.
After just over three hours, the man from Dunblane fired an incredible running forehand on his way to serving out the match and becoming the first British man since John Lloyd in 1977 to reach the final in Australia.
"Marin showed incredible guts, he had played three five-setters here," said Murray afterwards. "He made it so tough for me and he was so clearly tired after his hard week.
"After losing the first set I just went for my shots."
Murray must now wait to see if it is 10th seed Tsonga or 15-time Grand Slam champion Federer that stands in the way on Sunday when he attempts to finally follow Fred Perry's 1936 US Open triumph onto Britain's roll of honour.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.