Melbourne: Roger Federer gave his all, but for once it was not enough. When his back was to the wall, as it was for most of an intense and at times feisty semi-final at the Australian Open, the 17-time Grand Slam champion went for broke and occasionally pulled it off.
But in the end, the six years he was giving to Andy Murray weighed heavy on his legs and he was unable to sustain his aggression, going down 6-4, 6-7 6-3, 6-7, 6-2 after exactly four hours.
"Andy was just a bit better today," Federer said. "I think overall he created more chances than I did. I struggled to get into his service games time and again the way I usually do and then in the fifth set, he did well and was more aggressive."
It is now three years since Federer last won a Grand Slam on a hard court and what may concern him most of all is that he was outplayed in every department. Against the most attacking player in the men's game, Murray hit more aces, more winners, fewer unforced errors and broke serve six times to the Swiss's two.
That he managed to stretch the match to five sets, especially having gone the distance in the previous round, was testament to his mental strength and sheer desire to win. But in the final set, where once he might have run through a mentally-scarred opponent, he was broken early, ran out of steam and in the end, was well beaten. "I was down in the score, basically from the start," he said. "Definitely it (felt) more like a chase. I was able to level it a couple of times. I think it was a tough match. I think I had my chances a little bit. But Andy was a bit better than I was tonight."
At 31, the simple truth is that on hard courts, especially in the cool conditions he faced on Friday, Federer is no longer able to hit through his opponents as easily as he once could.
Having gone five sets with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the previous round, Federer said he was feeling the after-effects a little but refused to use it as an excuse. "Obviously I wish I could have come in like Andy (having not lost a set)," he said."(But) then again, he beat me fair and square tonight."
Murray, on the other hand, showcased his new mental strength after blowing the opportunity to serve out his semi-final against Roger Federer on Friday by demolishing the Swiss in the fifth set.
The 25-year-old Briton had been two points away from a final against Novak Djokovic when serving at 6-5 in the fourth set only for Federer to force a tie-break and then a decider.
Murray, however, has discovered a mental toughness in the last 12 months under coach Ivan Lendl and instead of brooding about losing the set the Scot sat quietly while Federer took a toilet break and figured out what he needed to do at the start of the fifth.
"To be honest, I was just trying to think what I'd done to get to that point, and I was just trying to focus on doing it at the beginning of the fifth set," Murray told reporters. "You never know what's going to happen. The only thing you can do is play the right way, go for your shots, and hope that it pays off.
"You just need to try and be focused for as much of the match as possible (and) the beginning of the fifth set was the part of the match that I was most pleased with."
Murray said there was still life in the 31-year-old Swiss. "I wouldn't say I dominated the match ' didn't necessarily feel that way," Murray said. (Reuters)