David Ferrer will take the court as a heavy underdog to Andy Murray tonight, with a spot in Sunday's final at stake.
Andy Murray vs. David Ferrer, 730 Pm, Rod Laver Arena
Andy Murray made short work of David Ferrer the last time they played, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he'll be able to do it again at night on the slower hard courts in Melbourne.
In London last November, Murray breezed past Ferrer in 70 minutes at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in very convincing fashion. He broke Ferrer six times in two sets, and took 32 of 54 points against the Spaniard's serve. If Murray can produce return numbers anywhere near the ones he racked up in November, he'll be well on his way to a straight-set victory.
But Ferrer has a few things working in his favor as well. He's only lost two sets thus far in his first five matches, and his legs will be as fresh as they could possibly be this late in a Slam. While Murray holds a 2-0 edge on hard courts against the Spaniard, Ferrer has managed three clay court wins against the Scot, including two this year (Madrid, Rome).
Look for Ferrer, who is five years Murray's senior and six inches shorter, to try to take advantage of any lapses in the Murray return game to get aggressive on short balls. Ferrer knows that he'll have to dictate to Murray as much as possible if he is to have any chance. He'll also attempt to make the outcome of this match more about fitness and mental toughness than anything else.
Murray will look to punish Ferrer for his relative lack of service pop. In their three matches this season, Murray saw 24 break point opportunities against Ferrer, converting on 13. If he can manage similar return numbers, the match will hinge on Murray's serve.
Murray's serving — particularly his first serve percentage — tends to be his stumbling block. He's never been the type of player that can serve his way out of trouble the way a Federer or a Nadal could, but if he can start now, he has a real opportunity to hold the trophy on Sunday evening.
Murray has the game to make this a one-sided match, but my instincts tell me that Ferrer has the heart and will to keep the outcome in doubt until the bitter end.
Pick: Murray in 5