The Scot Andy Murray enthralled a capacity crowd at Zayed Sports City by overcoming "local" favourite Roger Federer in a wildly fluctuating semi-final match.
Murray marches into the final
ABU DHABI // The Scot Andy Murray enthralled a capacity crowd at Zayed Sports City's impressive tennis stadium yesterday by overcoming "local" favourite Roger Federer in a wildly fluctuating semi-final of the Capitala World Championship.
Murray, 21, who had beaten Federer in four of their previous six encounters but lost the last and most important of them in the final of the US Open in September, sent out yet another strong message that he is about to become a major force on the men's circuit. Having risen from outside the top 20 to world No 4 during a highly satisfactory 2008, the youngster promises to go even higher in 2009 and has to be regarded as a serious threat to the supremacy of Federer and the new No 1 Rafael Nadal and is an obvious contender for the forthcoming Australian Open.
Federer, 27, was desperate to please the massive fan base he has built up in what he calls "home from home" but the Swiss maestro came up fractionally short in a thrilling 1hr 50min battle which went to a final-set tie-break decider. Murray eventually took that breaker on his fourth match point to celebrate a 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 triumph to the delight of the hordes of British spectators in the 5,000 crowd and is now relishing the chance to begin his season on an encouraging high in this evening's US$250,000 shoot-out against Nadal.
"Today against Roger was a good test of where I am at. So it would be nice to have another big test against Nadal who is the best in the world," said a contented Murray, who dismissed the scare of a twinge in his back as stiffness due to an absence of match practice over the last month. He refused to put too much significance on his latest success over Federer. He reflected: "There were a few mistakes towards the end of the match which is to be expected when we haven't played for a while but overall I thought both of us played to a pretty good standard."
Murray, who recovered powerfully from a slow start to the match to be well in command midway through the third set, was acutely aware afterwards that he should have ended the match much earlier. He misjudged the flight of the ball in failing to connect with what would have been the simplest of smashes which would have made it 5-1 and broken Federer's resistance. Reprieving an illustrious opponent who he had on the ropes at the time was warmly received by those watching as it inspired Federer, into a powerful comeback which almost turned the match around.
Federer, who said that the enjoyment of a first taste of life in Abu Dhabi made him stretch every sinew in a vain attempt to secure a second match in this new venue, wants to repeat the experience next year. "I would love to come back and play here again," he said. "In fact I expect to visit Abu Dhabi more often in the future." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org