Andy Murray Andy Murray of Great Britain celebrates a point in his first round match against Karol Beck of Slovakia during day two of the 2011 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 18, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia.

Ferrer vs. Murray:  Not the Spaniard whom most expected to spar with the Scot in the second semifinal, the world #7 has reached the final four for only the second time at a major.  Curiously, both of his appearances at this stage have come on hard courts rather than his favored clay, where he has conquered Murray three times.  Succumbing to the Spanish dirt devil at Rome and Madrid in 2010, the world #5 emphatically avenged those reverses at the year-end championships.  Their only hard-court meeting in nearly five years, that contest rushed swiftly towards its inevitable conclusion as Ferrer rarely threatened Murray on his serve while constantly sustaining pressure on his own delivery.  Like Nadal, the Scot can cover the court as thoroughly as the seventh seed, who has not developed the offensive arsenal to overpower his higher-ranked foe from the baseline.  In addition to his grinding resilience, Ferrer relies upon a steady barrage of inside-out forehands that often can trouble forehand-centered games but flies directly into the teeth of Murray’s greatest asset, his brisk two-handed backhand.  Although last year’s finalist has achieved little consistency with his first serve, he will collect far more free points with that imposing delivery than does Ferrer with a serve that merely opens the rally, similar to those of most clay-court specialists. 

Among the two finest returners in the game, the fifth and seventh seeds view that shot from contrasting perspectives.  Whereas the Scot slaps benign second serves for outright winners, the Spaniard punches an unparalleled percentage of first serves into play with his compact strokes, frustrating opponents accustomed to aces.  On a surface far slower than the indoor court in London, Ferrer will sink his jaws into baseline exchanges more frequently than he could during their previous encounter.  Before the quarterfinal, moreover, the seventh seed reeled off victories nearly as authoritative as those of his opponent, who conceded just five games to Melzer and just 22 games in his first 12 sets.  Twice a runner-up to Federer at hard-court majors, Murray bears much greater expectations than does a Spaniard whose compatriots center their attention upon Nadal.  How will he respond to the role of the overwhelming favorite in a situation of this magnitude?  In a similar context against Cilic last year, he opened the match tense and irritable before finding his rhythm midway through the second set.  Without a thunderous serve to defuse, though, Murray should earn another opportunity to infuse British hearts with a bittersweet brew blending renewed hope and the anticipation of anguish.

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