Federer's mask slips as Murray gets under his skin

Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:54pm EST
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By Martyn Herman

(Reuters) - Andy Murray did not just beat Roger Federer for the first time in grand slam play at the Australian Open on Friday, the Scot's relentless onslaught made the King of Cool lose his cool.

The regal Federer, whose grace and skill has dazzled the sport for a golden decade in which he has won 17 grand slam titles, rarely appears ruffled by anything but on Friday, in the heat of battle, his mask slipped.

Struggling to live with Murray's power and unable to punch through the Briton's granite-like defenses, the 31-year-old Federer fought like a cornered rat to force a riveting contest into a fifth set.

Throughout the four-hour semi-final Murray showed scant regard for his opponent's reputation, engaging the Swiss maestro in the kind of close-quarters combat that left little room for the decorum and reverence often accompanying Federer matches.

Early on as Murray dominated BBC commentator Andrew Castle was forced to apologize on behalf of the Swiss for an F-word tirade and when Murray served for the match at 6-5 in the fourth Federer uttered some choice words in his direction.

Murray's nonchalant smirk across the net was followed not long after by a drilled forehand aimed directly at the body of Federer - a tactic once the preferred choice of Murray's poker-faced coach Ivan Lendl.

There was a palpable tension between the two players who one imagines, unlike Murray and Novak Djokovic or Federer and Rafa Nadal, are unlikely to be future drinking buddies.

"Stuff like that happens daily in tennis matches," Murray said when quizzed by British reporters.   Continued...

Andy Murray of Britain reacts during his men's singles semi-final match against Roger Federer of Switzerland at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 25, 2013. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj