There are hurdles in professional sports that few will ever get to jump. Win a championship, beat your childhood idol, or finally take down the guy that seemed to always have your number in the big events.
That's what happened on Friday at the Australian Open, when Andy Murray was finally able to beat Roger Federer in a Grand Slam in a five set match that most won't soon forget. Murray won 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-7 (2-7), 6-2, with the last set being a bit of a letdown after the comeback that Federer mounted in a fourth set that seemed all but over for the four-time Australian Open champion.
Federer was in command of the fourth set, serving at 4-2 after a break of Murray and it seemed a fifth set was inevitable, but at 0-30 Murray fought back and broke Roger. He broke him again at 6-5 to serve for the match, but Federer, back to the wall, with what seemed like nothing left to throw at Murray, broke back to head to a tiebreaker and force the fifth set (the momentum change happened when a little exchange happened between the two that both downplayed after the match ended).
The strange thing about this semifinal match is if you took a few seconds to look at the stat sheet you'd probably be wondering how in the world Federer forced this thing to go the distance.
Murray came out pounding his serve in the first, racking up five aces to none for Federer as he cruised to a 1-0 lead. The second set wasn't much different, with Murray carding more aces and winners than Federer, but it seemed anytime a big point came along, Federer was able to pull it out (and he was helped by a shot Murray tried to play in the tiebreaker that was both impractical and, bluntly, out if he had let it pass).
The third set was more of the same for Murray, and then came that decisive fourth set that seemed like more will than ability for Federer.
Friday's match wasn't the prettiest tennis from Federer. He hit too many balls in the middle of the court and not enough serves out of Murray's reach. He could never find a return game to get comfortable with because of how solid Murray was serving the ball (the best I've ever seen him serve it), and if it was any other player on the planet this side of Novak Djokovic this match probably ends in straight sets.
But yes, Murray finally took down Federer in a Grand Slam, and yes, it will be the matchup in the finals that most thought would happen, but for a split second, when the fourth set tiebreaker was coming to a close, you felt like the 31-year-old had one more push in him to remind Murray, and the world, that he wasn't going anywhere. The match just went one set too long for Roger.
Anytime Federer walks off a Grand Slam court waving to the crowd a loser you start to wonder. How many more times can he do this? How many more times can he advance to the finals against all these young players that keep coming at him knowing no matter who the top ranked player in the world is, this is Roger Freakin' Federer and they want a piece of him? It's incredible, really. Tennis is as much for old men as basketball is for short ones, but Federer keeps showing up at Grand Slams with the game good enough to bring him to this point. The problem is, this point isn't where he wants to be, and as he exited Rod Laver Arena on Friday you have to wonder how many more of these runs does he have left in him.
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