MELBOURNE: Andy Murray set up an Australian Open semi-final against the much-improved Milos Raonic on Wednesday when he weathered a fierce attack by David Ferrer on a day of rare success for Britain.
A thunderstorm proved an unlikely ally for Murray when it forced the Rod Laver Arena roof to be closed mid-match, helping him accelerate to a 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-3 win in the indoor conditions he enjoys.
Later, Raonic continued his ascent with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Gael Monfils to reach the Australian semi-finals for the first time.
Murray is into his sixth Australian Open semi-final 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 this time, the world number three has British company in the final stages after Johanna Konta downed China’s Zhang Shuai to become the first British woman to reach a Grand Slam semi 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.
Adding further lustre to the British day to remember, Murray’s brother Jamie reached the men’s doubles semi-finals 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 team tournament since 1936.
“It’s pretty good for us to have people competing in almost all of the competitions,” said Murray. “Hopefully we can keep it going.”
‘Idol’ Graf teaches Kerber to believe
Angelique Kerber credited German great Steffi Graf with giving her the belief that she can win big matches after upsetting Victoria Azarenka to reach the Australian Open’s semi-finals.
The seventh seed stunned the two-time champion 6-3, 7-5 to make the last four of a Grand Slam for only the second time after the US Open in 2012.
The 28-year-old Kerber had a stellar 2015, winning four tournaments, second only to Serena Williams’ five, and she said fellow German Graf’s words of wisdom had been instrumental.
“Steffi is a champion. She taught me to believe in myself. She was and still is my idol,” said Kerber of Graf, who won 22 Grand Slam titles — an Open-era record that Serena Williams is gunning to match in Melbourne.
Kerber is the first German into the last four at the Australian Open since Anke Huber in 1998.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2016.