By Nick Mulvenney
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Andy Murray bludgeoned his way through a brick wall named David Ferrer Friday to reach the Australian Open final and give himself a third crack at ending Britain's interminable wait for a men's grand slam champion.
Pretenders to end the nation's embarrassing 75-year drought have come as close before but few can have shown the skill, persistence, and self-belief that Murray summoned up to beat the inspired Spaniard 4-6 7-6 6-1 7-6 on Rod Laver Arena.
"He's an unbelievable athlete, and unbelievable competitor, it was an unbelievably tough match and I managed to come through," said Murray, who will meet fellow 23-year-old Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final -- only the second of the last 23 men's grand slam finals not to feature either Roger Federer or world number one Rafa Nadal.
The Scot will hope the victory does not turn out to be pyrrhic as there can be little doubt that Serbian third seed Djokovic would have been delighting in every second of the energy-sapping three hour, 46-minute duel as he lounged in his hotel room eating popcorn.
Murray lost his previous two grand slam finals to Roger Federer, including tearfully here last year, and came perilously close to kissing goodbye to his chance of a third as an inspired Ferrer moved to within a point of a two-set lead.
Afterwards, Murray admitted he was oblivious to his precarious position but he saved the set point at 4-5, 30-40 with a thumping serve to keep alive his hopes of becoming his country's first winner of a major since Fred Perry in 1936.
Spaniard Ferrer had reached his second grand slam semi-final at his 33rd attempt after beating an injury-hit Nadal in the quarters but began as if to prove a point.
For most of the first two sets the 28-year-old seventh seed proved a formidable barrier to Murray's more cunning game, scurrying from side to side to send back everything Murray could throw at him with some interest and no little skill.
After coming off second best through a few lengthy, leg-buckling rallies, Murray's nadir in the match came when he was serving to stay in the 73-minute second set and Ferrer had a grabbed a set point.
Incredibly, Murray was blissfully unaware of quite how much trouble he was in.
"You are probably not going to believe this but I actually thought it was 4-3, I didn't know until the umpire called five all at the end of the game, he said.
"I was so focused, I was pretty wrapped up in it and lost track. I hope it doesn't happen again."
The Briton knew he had to change something and, having chuntered at his entourage including mum Judy and dispatched a bunch of rackets off to be re-strung, he altered his tactics to a more aggressive approach.
"I felt I was able hit through the ball better, came into the net a lot, finished a lot of the points quicker because from the back, he's like a brick wall, he never misses," Murray, who dominated the second set tiebreak, said.
Murray broke early in the fourth set but the match had another twist with Ferrer changing his shirt, saving double break points, and roaring back to lead 5-4 and 6-5, only for his opponent to snuff out any danger with some deadly first serves.
"He started to play better and my level dropped, which happens a bit toward the end of a five-set match but I managed to find it at the end of the set when I needed it," said Murray who again called the shots in the tiebreak.
Job done, Murray played down the historical importance of Sunday's showdown with Djokovic despite the growing sense of hope taking hold on the other side of the world.
"The historical thing, it's not something that I've thought about that much, but it's something that obviously for me personally I want to try and win, he said.
While Murray, described by Ferrer as a "very, very great player," faces an anxious day counting down the hours to his third grand slam final, one piece of Australian Open silverware has already been inscribed.
Argentine Gisela Dulko and Italy's Flavia Pennetta also came from behind to beat Belarus and Russian duo Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko 2-6 7-5 6-1 to win the women's doubles.
(Editing by Martyn Herman)