England vs Germany semifinal Down Under: Konta vs Kerber; Murray outlasts Ferrer

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World number two Andy Murray weathered a storm from Spain's David Ferrer over four tough sets to advance to his sixth semi-final in seven years at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

Four-time runner-up Murray finished the stronger, beating the eighth-seed 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-3 in three hours 20 minutes and will play Milos Raonic or Gael Monfils in Friday's semi-final.
Ferrer proved a difficult proposition for Murray, relentlessly slugging it out from the baseline and keeping the Scot working hard in a physically demanding match on Rod Laver Arena.

The Scot, distracted by his father-in-law's collapse earlier in the tournament, reached his 18th Grand Slam semi as he attempts to go one better after losing four of the last six Melbourne finals.
Murray appeared to benefit in the change to the slower court conditions when the roof was closed on Rod Laver Arena in the third set because of an approaching thunderstorm.

"I found it a bit easier to return. It was quite windy when the roof was open, so returning was tricky and against David's extremely accurate forehand that helped me a little bit," Murray said.

"It was actually good for us to have a little break because we played some brutal rallies at the beginning of the third set and also at the end of the second so I came back a bit more refreshed."
Murray, who has noticeably quickened his previously weaker second serve, extended his record over Ferrer to 13-6.

The tenacious Spaniard made 17 errors on the way to dropping the opening set in 45 minutes, following a service break in the fourth game.

It was titanic second-set struggle with Murray double-faulting on break point to go 0-2 down, before breaking back in the seventh game when Ferrer's forehand was well out.

Ferrer had the better of the tiebreak, winning one memorable rally that stretched to 31 shots, and clinched it on his first set point when Murray's forehand was wide.

Murray got a crucial early break in the third set before play was temporarily delayed by the closure of the stadium roof.

The world number two pressed and looked better suited by the slower court speed in the indoor conditions as he broke Ferrer again in the eighth game to take a two sets to one lead.

Murray grabbed another break early in the fourth set when Ferrer's running backhand crosscourt was just wide.

He handed back the break in the next game but then broke Ferrer in the sixth and went on to take it on his first match point, with a wide serve forcing Ferrer's return out.

Johanna Konta through

Johanna Konta ground down Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai 6-4 6-1 at the Australian Open on Wednesday to become the first British woman to reach the semi-finals of a grand slam in over 30 years.
The 47th-ranked Konta battled nerves and a wayward serve at times but overpowered the 133rd-ranked Zhang from the baseline to wrap up the match in one hour and 23 minutes on a warm, sunny afternoon at Rod Laver Arena.
After trading service breaks at the start of the second set, Konta roared to a 5-1 lead before sealing the win on the third match point with a lucky net cord that gave Zhang no chance.
The last British woman to reach the semis of a grand slam was Jo Durie at the 1983 US Open. Konta will seek to continue her fairytale run when she takes on German seventh seed Angelique Kerber for a place in the final.

Germany's Angelique Kerber stuns two-time champion Victoria Azarenka

Germany's Angelique Kerber stunned two-time champion Victoria Azarenka as she swept into the Australian Open semi-finals with her first ever win over the Belarusian on Wednesday.

The seventh seed, who had never gone beyond the fourth round at Melbourne Park before, blasted past the 14th seed 6-3, 7-5 and will play British hope Johanna Konta for a place in the final.

It was a huge upset for the German, who had lost all six previous encounters with Azarenka, including in the final of the Brisbane International this month and an epic three-hour marathon at last year's US Open.

"I can't describe it. I was 0-6 (in their head to head) before I came on court. I said 'Just go for it and beat her'. I'm so happy to beat her for the first time," she said.

"I tried to serve well from the first point and play more aggressive than the last few times I played her. This is incredible feeling to play here on centre court.

"It's amazing to be in the semi-final"

Kerber is a renowned fighter and the quality shone through as she battled back from 2-5 down in the second set against a player who has been in ominous form this season.

Azarenka had lost just 11 games in her four matches prior to meeting Kerber and was seen as the main threat to Serena Williams' relentless march to a 22nd Grand Slam crown.

Belarusian implodes

Williams brushed aside Maria Sharapova in her quarter-final and faces Agnieszka Radwanska on Thursday for a place in the decider.

But Kerber, who had a stellar 2015, winning four tournaments, second only to Williams' five, had other ideas to become the first German into the last four here since Anke Huber in 1998.

She gave Azarenka the run-around in the opening game, stunning her by getting a break, making the most of consecutive wide forehands.

As sun the blazed down, the 14th seed battled back to score a break point herself on the Kerber serve but the opportunity went begging as she slipped 2-0 behind -- the first time she had been a break down all tournament.

The Azarenka serve was weak, and a double fault handed the German another break in game three after a series of entertaining rallies.

Kerber was playing some sublime tennis with her shot placement perfect, and Azarenka was flummoxed and irritable on court.

But she composed herself to create two break point opportunities in the sixth game, and screamed "C'mon" after a delicate drop shot hauled her back into the match 2-4.

She held serve but her pounding groundstrokes were being returned consistently. Kerber also held and then took the set on her fourth break point when Azarenka snapped a backhand long.

Stung by dropping the first set, Azarenka broke Kerber immediately as the German lost focus, and then held serve to love as they traded blistering groundstrokes, probing for an opening.

Kerber had two break points to make it 3-4 but she couldn't convert, before Azarenka made it 5-3 as the German missed a volley.

But Azarenka lost the plot serving for the set, throwing away three set points and blasting a double fault to gift Kerber a game back.

Kerber broke again to make it 5-5 as Azarenka again failed to bury set points. It cost her dearly with the German storming to victory as the Belarusian imploded.

 

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