LONDON // Fears that Andy Murray would suffer a costly relapse after his history-making triumph under Wimbledon's magnificent new Centre Court roof on Monday, proved seriously misplaced last night as the British No 1 produced some magnificent tennis to overwhelm his experienced quarter-final opponent Juan Carlos Ferrero. Murray, who completed his epic fourth round victory over Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka at 10.39pm - easily the latest finish ever in this famous tournament - must have thought that another protracted battle was on the way after a lapse in concentration at the start of the second set allowed Ferrero to break him. However from 1-3 (deuce) he strung together a remarkable run of 20 out of 21 points which left the experienced Spaniard gasping and close to the exit door.
A further break of the Ferrero serve - the fourth of the match - in the fifth game of the ensuing set brought that departure into sharper focus and Murray then raced to the finishing line, breaking yet again to close out his thoroughly satisfying 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 victory which takes him into uncharted Wimbledon territory.
Murray, who will tomorrow face either Lleyton Hewitt or Andy Roddick for the right to meet RogerFederer or Tommy Haas in Sunday's final, was grateful that he was able to go up a gear so impressively to ensure that he won in minimal time. The 70th-ranked Ferrero, granted a wild card entry into the draw in recognition of his 2003 French Open success, had been in splendid form in previous rounds and was expected to ask more serious questions about the British No 1's title credentials. The Spaniard had earned rave notices for his conquest of Chilean Fernando Gonzalez - the hard-hitting destroyer of Murray at Roland Garros last month. When he followed up that outstanding win by ousting the eighth-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon he looked like he was about to roll back the years and emulate Goran Ivanisevic who won the tournament on as a wild card in 2001. Ultimately, however, he was no match for world No 3 Murray, who is closing in on Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at the top of the rankings and looking to be the first British Wimbledon champion since Fred Perry.
The Scot might have fallen fractionally short of the sublime level reached by title favourite Federer on the same court earlier in the day but still had every reason to be pleased with himself. "I really didn't want another long match like Monday's and I'm glad to say I didn't get one," said Murray, helped by 18 aces which contributed to an impressive 88 per cent success rate from his first serve. "It was extremely hot out there so it was good that I could wrap it up in straight sets and get in plenty of rest before focusing on what comes next.
"I am really pleased to be in the semi-finals for the first time and I am going to try my best to go further but it's going to be tough, whoever I play." Murray will play Andy Roddick in the last four after the sixth seed came through a tough five-setter against Lleyton Hewitt, winning 6-3 6-7 (10/12) 7-6 (7/1) 4-6 6-4. The American is through to his second grand slam semi-final in six months after also reaching the last four in Australia. Roddick said: "I'm super relieved just coming off the court and really, really happy. "I hadn't really been in the grand slam picture much the last two years and now it's my second semi-final of the year so far so I'm thrilled right now." firstname.lastname@example.org