Murray marches into Open final

Murray overpowers Cilic in Melbourne as Serena and Henin book finals showdown.

    Murray quickly took control of the Cilic match and will play either Roger Federer or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Sunday's final [AFP]

    Britain's Andy Murray reached the final of the Australian Open for the first time with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 over Croatian Marin Cilic.

    Murray now has to battle with the expectations of a nation on his shoulders. He is hoping to achieve what no British man has done in more than 70 years - win a Grand Slam singles title.

    He'll take on the winner of Friday night's semi-final between three-time Australian Open winner Roger Federer and 2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

    Should Federer win, it will mean a rematch of the 2008 US Open where the Swiss favourite convincingly overpowered Murray in straight sets.

    That was the 22-year-old Scot's only trip to a Grand Slam singles final, where his loss continued a streak of no British man winning a major since 1936.

    Earlier on Thursday Serena Williams and Justine Henin booked their finals showdown with victories over Chinese opponents to advance to a mouth-watering final on Saturday.

    Williams beat Li Na 7-6 (4), 7-6 (1) while Henin wasted little time beating Zheng Jie 6-1, 6-0.

    Great British hope

    The last British man to win at the Australian Open was Fred Perry in 1934.

    Perry won Wimbledon in 1936, the last British man to win there, a drought that has worn heavily on the psyche of players such as Murray, Tim Henman and others before them.

    Murray is the first British man to reach the Australia final since John Lloyd in 1977 and the first to reach two Grand Slam finals in the Open era.

    Murray used to joke several years ago that when he lost, he was Scottish, and when he won the media referred to him as British.

    He could make everybody happy in the United Kingdom if he breaks the drought on Sunday at Rod Laver Arena.

    "I started going for my shots a little bit more, he was playing right close to the baseline,'' Murray said.

    Cilic "played three five-set matches and made it so tough for me and fought until the end.

    "I'm really look forward to the final now, I'm feeling good.''

    Leading 3-1 in the fourth set and with Cilic serving, Murray unleashed a forehand to the corner that left Cilic standing in the middle of the court on break point. He took a 5-1 lead on his next service game and closed the match in just over three hours.

    The comeback continues with a mouth-watering Serena showdown [GALLO/GETTY]
    Comeback queen

    Justine Henin moved to within one step of emulating fellow comeback queen Kim Clijsters by pulverising China's Zheng Jie to reach the final.

    Henin blew Zheng off court with a quickfire 6-1 6-0 win to set up a final with defending champion Serena Williams after the American had earlier beaten Zheng's compatriot Li Na.

    The result is a remarkable achievement for the Belgian, who is playing only her second competitive tournament after an 18-month retirement and her return to the game mirrors Clijsters, who won last year's US Open in her third tournament back after a two-year absence.

    Seven-times grand slam winner Henin, who has complained of fatigue during the tournament, was ruthless in her demolition of Zheng, rattling off 12 straight games to seal victory in 51 minutes.

    "I feel tired of course. I had a couple of tough matches," Henin told ESPN in a courtside interview.

     "I played very aggressive. It was a dream for me this morning to make the final and now I can rest tomorrow and prepare for it.

    "It will be tough against the best player in the world.

    "She is a real champion. She proved it again this tournament when she had to fight back against (Victoria) Azarenka. I'm very happy she is in my way because she is the best."

    A small pocket of Australia's Chinese community had made it to Rod Laver Arena to back Li and Zheng and while they were vocal in their support of Li, they were silenced by Henin's dazzling performance.

    After Zheng held serve in the opening game, Henin quickly exposed the Chinese's weakness in that area, stepping in early to fire winners to all corners of the court.

    Zheng and Li had given their country two semi-finalists at the same grand slam tournament for the first time.

    Williams leads Henin 7-6 in career head-to-heads, although they've never met in a Grand Slam final. Williams won their last match, at Miami in 2008, just before Henin retired suddenly while holding the No1 ranking.

    "It's such an amazing chance that I have to play another final in Melbourne,'' said Henin, who won the 2004 title in Melbourne and lost the 2006 final.

    "It's a very special occasion, but the dream continues.''

    Williams took some sisterly advice to help her beat China's Li [AFP]
    Helping hand

    Serena Williams got some help from her sister for her semi-final win.

    After Venus Williams lost in the quarterfinals to Li, ending any chance of an all-Williams semi-final, she did all she could to ensure at least one family member would be there.

    "She told me how to play her and what to do,'' Serena said.

    "She had chances yesterday and she knew how to play her. It always helps when you have someone who can help you out.''

    Serena Williams recorded her 50th career win at Melbourne Park and advanced to her fifth Australian Open final.

    It was the first time that two Chinese players had advanced to the semi-final of a major, but Williams and Henin were the dominant force.

    "Good for both players,'' Li said.

    "Also good for China tennis. I think if the children, they see this, maybe they will be more confident and think they can do it some day too.''

    Unfortunately for Zheng, it was the most lopsided women's semi-final at the
    Australian Open since Chris Evert beat Andrea Jaeger by the same score in 1982.

    Serena Williams has won the title every time she's played the final here since beating Venus here in 2003. The winning sequence has been every odd-numbered year so far.

    "I really should have won sooner ... I had so many match points and I blew it and I knew I couldn't mess up my serve because she never gives up,'' Williams said of her win over Li.

    "She's a real, real amazing fighter.

    "Every time I had match points she came up with some big serves and great shots. She just goes for broke.''

    Serena, the 11-time Grand Slam singles champion, and Venus, the defending
    champions in doubles, later beat Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs 6-3, 7-6 (6)
    in the semi-finals. They'll play No1 Cara Black and Liezel Huber in Friday's final.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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