Ferrer rues letting Murray off the ropes

By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - David Ferrer rued letting Andy Murray off the ropes in the Australian Open semi-final on Friday but exited his 33rd consecutive grand slam tournament satisfied he had done his best against a "very, very great player."

The 28-year-old Spaniard was one point away from taking a two-set lead over the Briton in an electric atmosphere at Rod Laver Arena, but Murray slammed the door shut with a huge serve before marching to the final with a 4-6 7-6 6-1 7-6 victory.

"I had my chance in the set point in the second set, but in the important moments he served really well," said Ferrer, who scrambled hard all night and produced some sensational tennis before succumbing when Murray ratcheted up the pressure.

"I play little bit short sometimes in the start of the tiebreak. And really the key was the serve.

"Andy in important moments served better than me. So I can't do nothing more. I fight a lot. I tried my best game all the time, but Andy's a very, very great player."

Having outpointed one of the game's best counter-punchers for large stretches of the match, the seventh-seeded Spaniard lost his cool after the third set, kicking over a sponsor's sign in frustration after failing to break Murray's serve.

The Spaniard's fourth-set fightback from a break down set a packed Rod Laver Arena alight, but ended with a second tiebreak collapse to leave his record 74-80 in the seven-point deciders.

However, Ferrer said he was still hungry to mix it with the game's best players despite losing a second grand slam semi-final -- his other one coming at the 2007 U.S. Open.

"I am seven in the world because I play well before and now, no?" he said. "You know, Rafael (Nadal) is number one in the world because he is the best. Federer is two because he is the second best. Me, I am the seventh. Next week six."

(Editing by Martyn Herman)