Australian Open: Andy Murray beats Alexandr Dolgopolov
Australian Open, Melbourne Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 17-30 January Coverage: Watch on BBC TV, Red Button, BBC Sport website (UK only) & Eurosport; listen on BBC 5 live sports extra and online; text commentary online;
Murray passes tricky Dolgopolov test
By Piers Newbery
Andy Murray moved into the semi-finals of the Australian Open with a testing four-set win over Ukrainian world number 46 Alexandr Dolgopolov.
The Briton, seeded fifth, came through 7-5 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 6-3, and will face David Ferrer in the last four after the seventh seed upset Rafael Nadal.
Dolgopolov had looked down and out at two sets and a break down before storming back to win the third.
But Murray then dominated the fourth set to avoid a nerve-jangling decider.
And he will need to rediscover his best form consistently if he is to come through Friday's encounter and return to the final 12 months after defeat by Roger Federer, although Ferrer is unlikely to provide such unorthodox opposition as Dolgopolov.
The 22-year-old had caused the biggest shock in the men's event to date with victory over fourth seed Robin Soderling in the previous round, and the Ukrainian's unusual style of varied pace and spins had been most likened to that of Murray among the leading players.
I struggled with my rhythm early on and he came back in the third set but I thought I did well enough
Despite saying beforehand that he expected a very different kind of match, Murray seemed flummoxed at first by the range of winners, errors, aces and more that came at him.
The 23-year-old Scot was still able to hold his game together the better of the two, though, as Dolgopolov's 26 unforced errors and 21 winners in the first set were more than double Murray's comparable statistics.
Four breaks of serve were shared across the opening seven games, with a woeful Dolgopolov smash in the opening game countered by a spectacular running forehand winner in the third.
Murray had his own problems finding any rhythm but edged the set in an almost comical 12th game.
The Scot played a brilliant backhand winner off another poor Dolgopolov smash, then watched as two of three set points were saved by aces rocketing past him, only to convert the fourth with a backhand return that required Hawkeye to confirm it had clipped the baseline.
It had been a bizarre 57 minutes of tennis, in stark contrast to the Briton's seamless progress through the first four rounds, and he appeared keen to rediscover that kind of dominance early in the second set.
The slightly surreal edge to the match was aided by a full-blooded rendition of the home nation's anthem by a spectator, presumably to mark Australia Day, during the changeover after game three, and Dolgopolov followed up with some tennis that matched the mood.
Murray happy after tough test
From 40-15, he played a disastrous high backhand that flew wide with the court gaping and netted a forehand to offer up the break point, which Murray gratefully converted with some creative work drawing his man into the net.
The Briton saw three set points slip by in game eight but made no mistake moments later, wrapping up a set in which he dropped just two points on serve.
Murray's roar of delight on taking a two-set lead filled a now quiet Rod Laver Arena as the crowd sensed the higher-ranked man had all but finished the job, and a break at the start of the third set only confirmed that feeling.
It was Murray who opened the door to a possible comeback at 3-2 when he failed to finish off a rally from the forecourt at 30-15, only for Dolgopolov to then flash a forehand winner past him and the Briton to leak a forehand wide on break point.
Within the space of a minute, the man who had seen off Soderling and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had been resurrected and the crowd engaged, and Murray was suddenly under pressure on serve for the first time since the early games.
The Briton had the chance to re-establish his advantage in a dramatic game at 5-5, but Dolgopolov saved three break points in spectacular fashion and had the better of a gripping 35-shot rally on his way to holding serve.
Dolgopolov's combination of huge forehands and heavy sliced backhands was now seriously troubling Murray, and the Briton appeared rattled as he double-faulted at 4-2 down on his way to losing the tie-break and dropping his first set of the tournament.
The crowd was now primed for a classic encounter, but as quickly as Dolgopolov's fizzing energy had returned in the third set, so it disappeared at the start of the fourth.
It was not just down to the Ukrainian and Murray did well to regain his composure, making eight first serves in a row as he won the opening 14 points - and 16 of the first 17 - to establish a commanding 4-0 lead.
Nothing about this match was going to be straightforward, though, and Murray promptly handed one of the breaks straight back, ensuring a nervous toil through two more service games before he finally sealed the win after three hours and five minutes.
"It was very tough," Murray said afterwards. "Every point against him is different, he hits the ball differently to everyone else, it's tough to explain.
"I struggled with my rhythm early on and he came back in the third set but I thought I did well enough. I had to go for my shots a little bit more in the fourth set, I was a little bit tense in the tie-breaker and served a double-fault and missed a couple of easy forehands.
"I got off to a good start (in the fourth set) and that settled me down, but it was a very tough match and a very tough one to get my rhythm in."
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.