Andy Murray will get another chance to end a near 75-year winless streak for British men in Grand Slam singles tournaments after beating Spain's David Ferrer 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1, 7-6 (2) Friday to reach the Australian Open final.
The semifinal win put Murray into Sunday's final against Novak Djokovic of Serbia, the 2008 champion who holds a 4-3 edge in head-to-head matches. Murray, however, has won the last three.
No British male has won a Grand Slam singles title since Fred Perry in 1936 — more than 270 Grand Slam tournaments ago. The drought endured through British hopes including Tim Henman and most recently by Murray in last year's straight-set loss to Roger Federer at Melbourne Park.
Federer is gone from this tournament, beaten by Djokovic in the semifinals. Top-ranked Rafael Nadal, who was trying to win his fourth straight Grand Slam tournament, is gone too. He was hobbled by a thigh injury in his quarter-final loss to Ferrer.
Friday night's semifinal was filled with long rallies and plenty of booming forehands that just cleared the net. Murray mixed it up enough at times that his looping lob on break point at 4-1 in the third set went high over seventh-seeded Ferrer's head, allowing the Spaniard to only watch as the ball bounced meters inside the line.
"My body was feeling it a bit at the end," said Murray. "Both of us did a lot of running."
Ferrer won the first set by breaking Murray's serve in the 10th game, and had a set point to go up 2-0 in the second. But Murray saved it and levelled at 5-5. The two exchanged service breaks in the next two games to send the second set to a tiebreaker, which Murray led 6-0 and easily prevailed.
"I think towards the end of the second set I started going for my shots more ... I was missing a lot earlier," Murray said. "I changed my string tension and managed to come through."
Ferrer rued his missed opportunities, but said he couldn't have done any more.
"I had my chance in the set point in the second set, but in the important moments he served really well," Ferrer said. "In the tiebreak, maybe he start better than me.
"Andy in important moments serve better than me. So I can't do nothing more. I fight a lot. I tried my best game all the time, but Andy's a very, very great player."
Murray says he and Djokovic are good friends and often train together.
"I think experience-wise we are similar," Murray said. "There won't be any secrets with our games but it's going to be a brutal match."
In Canadian action, Toronto's Daniel Nestor and Belarusian partner Max Mirnyi lost their doubles semifinal to India's Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 6-3.
A few hours later, Nestor and Slovenian Katarina Srebotnic advanced to the mixed doubles semis without hitting a ball as their opponents Bhupathi and Anastasia Rodionova withdrew.
Meanwhile, Montreal's Eugenie Bouchard advanced to the junior girls' semifinal with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Slovakia's Anna Schmiedlova. She will play her doubles partner, Monica Puig of Puerto Rico, in the semis.
Earlier Friday, the top-ranked team of Gisela Dulko of Argentina and Italian Flavia Pennetta rallied from a set and 4-1 down to beat Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 for the women's doubles title.
It was the first Grand Slam title for the Dulko-Pennetta combination, who made it to the quarter-finals at all the Grand Slams last year and the Wimbledon semifinals.
Dulko and Pennetta, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 among doubles players, were already up a break in the deciding set at 3-1 when they broke again when Kirilenko netted a backhand.
They held in their next service game, then broke Azaranka and Kirilenko again to close out the match.
Kim Clijsters, who will play the women's final Saturday against Li Na of China, thinks that 2011 will "probably" be her last full year on the tennis tour.
When asked Friday if the Australian Open women's final could be her last appearance at Melbourne Park, the 27-year-old Clijsters replied: "Yeah, it is."
"I know this is probably going to be my last full season on the tour, and then we'll see," Clijsters said ahead of Saturday's final against China's Li Na.
Fellow Belgian and former No. 1-ranked Justine Henin retired for a second time on Wednesday, citing a lingering elbow injury that forced her off the tour after Wimbledon last year. She won seven Grand Slam singles titles.
"Obviously it's a sad situation to see such a great player end her career in this kind of way," Clijsters said this week.
Clijsters only returned to the tour in late 2009 after a 2 ½-year break, during which she go married and had a child. She won the U.S. Open in her third tournament back and has won five singles titles in all since her return, including the 2010 U.S. Open.
When she won the 2009 U.S. Open, she became the first mother to win a Grand Slam singles title since Evonne Goolagong Cawley at Wimbledon in 1980.
On Friday at her pre-final media conference, she said the birth of her daughter, Jada, and the death of her father, Leo, may have contributed to her return to the tour.
"Obviously so many things happened in those two years — the loss of my dad as well was something that kind of triggered me trying to do something different for a while to kind of get my mind off it and to try and put some time into kind of myself," she said.