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Wimbledon 2013: Man of steel Andy Murray is one step from history after win over Jerzy Janowicz

Magnificent Scot passes another huge test, but the most daunting still awaits

By Mike Gilson at Wimbledon

Make no mistake, this was magnificent Murray. Last night, at just gone 9.30pm, an ecstatic Centre Court crowd almost lifted the roof, closed amid some controversy 30 minutes earlier, clean off as the No. 2 seed closed out a match in four sets that had begun to look like a sizeable banana skin.

Murray's 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 win confirmed an astonishing new maturity for the Scot, allied to astonishing composure with his tennis and ability to handle his opponent's deadly quick serve in a way that looks set to make him one of the greatest returners the game has ever seen.

Now he just has the best player in world, Novak Djokovic, to overcome in what will be a mouth-watering final tomorrow after the Serb had earlier beaten Juan Martin del Porto in one of the best games ever seen on these courts.

But be in no doubt what Murray had to do to earn his passage for the Polish 23rd seed Jerzy Janowicz is a force of nature. Standing 6ft 8in, the 22-year-old has a fearsome serve that has reached 144mph this tournament.

On top of that, looking like a younger version of the Bond villain Jaws, he is all agitation, looking to get under the skin of his opponent.

With the backing of his team in his box clapping like seals in unison every time he won a point, it was the sort of situation that the Andy Murray of 18 months ago might have bridled at and lost his way. And in the first set Janowicz, whose name we better get used to hearing, brought all his youthful arrogance to bear on Murray, hitting blistering ground strokes and using the drop shot with incredible regularity.

When Murray lost the first set tie-break by double faulting, some were ready to accept a new dawn in men's tennis was breaking.

The truth was Murray was actually playing pretty well, there was no meltdown as there was early on against Verdasco.

It was just that Janowicz was playing without fear and with a natural talent that will see him in the top 10 very soon.

But nowadays Murray can find new gears and did so right at the start of the second set. His ability to thrive under the punch served him well and he began to find the measure of the booming Polish serve.

He broke Janowicz immediately and started to pick the serve astonishingly well. Once in a rally Murray invariably had the weapons and the experience to win the point.

His opponent's youth and lack of experience – he was only a qualifier here last year – began to tell and as Murray turned the screw his game became ragged.

Even so, Murray needed all his resources when the Pole threatened to break back at 4-3 down, Murray saving game point with an astonishingly brave second serve. Indeed Murray's serving, so poor early on against Verdasco, was excellent here, serving more than double the number of aces as the man across the net.

At the start of the third set the Pole again lost his concentration, constantly asking the umpire when the roof was going to be closed, claiming to have trouble seeing in the fading light.

It didn't seem to put him off as he raced to a 4-1 lead, continuing to find success with the drop shot.

Now came the magnificent Murray bit.

The Scot reeled off the next five games to take the stuffing out of the Pole and bring his friend, the comedian James Corden to his feet in the box.

Fantastically targeted serving, as opposed to Janowicz's indiscriminate howitzers, and superb athleticism during the rallies were beginning to count.

Still, there was drama to come as the match referee eventually acceded to Janowicz's whinging and decided the roof would be deployed before the start of the fourth set.

With the wind in his sails, Murray could not believe the decision, complaining that his opponent had been moaning about the light for more than an hour and that there was at least another 45 minutes of good light left.

So to a different scenario when the players re-emerged 30 minutes later. Would Murray still be brooding about what he thought was an unfair decision? A couple of years back maybe.

Here he again refused to let Janowicz get under his skin and resumed normal service, breaking his opponent in the third game with another stunning running forehand pass.

The crowd's fervour was amplified ten fold under the roof and Murray used it for all it was worth.

He really has become fantastically adept at surfing the centre court fans cheers, getting them to their feet with just the pump of a fist and a roar.

It is sporting drama of the highest calibre. Now belief began to ebb away from the young pretender. A reasonably routine 6-3 fourth set him set up a dream final against Djokovic.

For all its drama and tension the second semi final could not match the sheer brilliance of the first which saw the Number One seed win a five set epic against Argentine del Potro.

The match, which the Serb won 7-5, 4-6, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 was an instant Wimbledon classic, played at a high-level of breathtaking skill throughout.

The Number 8 seed del Potro simply refused to surrender winning a stunning four sets on the tie break after saving a series of match points.

The Argentine's awesome cross court forehands, clocking in at more than 110mph had Djokovic pinned to the back of the court for long periods.

But the Number One seed's amazing Indian rubber man acts at the back of the court, he never knows when he's beaten in a rally, and a service game which was on top form saw him through.

Del Porto won himself a whole host of new British friends with a gutsy skilful performance in a match which came down to fine margins. Much of the third and fourth set play was effectively an extended highlights package, so astonishing was the tennis.

Belfast Telegraph


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