Andy Murray produced a storming comeback to defeat Milos Raonic and reach a fifth Australian Open final – where he will face defending champion Novak Djokovic – after an five-set thriller in Melbourne. The world number two trailed by two sets to one but turned the match around to win 4-6 7-5 6-7 6-4 6-2.
Raonic had threatened to cause an upset and reach his maiden major final after taking the first and third sets with an aggressive brand of tennis that was too much for Murray to handle. But the former US Open and Wimbledon champ rallied and gave a virtuoso performance to confirm his place in a ninth grand slam final.
Murray will face 10-time major winner Djokovic in the final for the fourth time in six years, but is still seeking his first big win Down Under. Number one seed Djokovic cruised into the final with a fine display to oust Roger Federer in the first semi-final.
After watching world number one Djokovic lay down a significant marker against Federer on 28 January, Raonic and Murray had the daunting task of bidding to join the Serbian-final. Both players were locked at three wins apiece from their six previous meetings, but were pitted together for the first time in Melbourne.
It would be Raonic – in just his second major semi-final – who would make the faster start under the half-closed roof at the Rod Laver Arena. The Canadian began aggressively and broke Murray in a blur of an opening game, before seeing off three break-point chances in his first service game to consolidate the lead.
Going for his shots early and encroaching on the net without hesitation, Murray was unable to live with Raonic's intensity in the opening exchanges and it allowed the underdog to surge into the lead as he served out the set without alarm. Raonic's serve was also firing, but his British opponent would launch a counterattack in the second set.
Though two break points went by for Murray, every aspect of his game improved from the first set as he belatedly found a foothold. Raonic's standards did not slip, but serving to stay in the second set he finally relented as the two-time grand slam champion squared the contest.
There was now nothing to choose between the players in terms of the score line or the momentum of the match, with neither giving much away on their own serve. Murray did fight off a break-point chance in game 11 to force Raonic to serve to stay in the set.
The Scot went within two points of taking the third at 30-30 but Raonic took it to a tiebreak, where his ferocious serve helped him take control. The 25-year-old took a mini-break into the changeover before serving it out 7-4 to put one foot in the final.
In the fourth set, both players were locked in another closely contested set until game seven, when Raonic found the net with successive forehands and gifted Murray three break point chances. The 2015 Davis Cup winner yielded another error from his opponent to take a grip of proceedings and could even have closed out the set in the next game but for a sliced backhand return that drifted wide.
Murray took the clash to a deciding set and – having won 18 of his previous 25 matches to have gone the distance – the Briton was the firm favourite in the latter stages. He indeed took the immediate initiative as he broke an increasingly leg-weary Raonic, who had previously undergone treatment for a foot problem.
A second break soon followed to give Murray a 4-0 lead and though Raonic got on the board following a gruelling fifth game, which saw four break points saved, there was no coming back for the Montenegro-born right-hander. As the match ticked into a fifth hour Murray completed the stunning fightback to book another meeting with Djokovic.