Murray shrugs off Vallverdu factor in Berdych clash

Andy Murray takes on seventh seed Berdych in the last four of the Australian Open this morning (coverage from 8.20am on BBC), a player who will have the inside track on the Wimbledon champion.

Murray shrugs off  Vallverdu factor in  Berdych clash

Berdych is coached by Murray’s long-term friend and former assistant coach Dani Vallverdu, who — along with fitness trainer Jez Green — left the Murray camp at the end of last season.

“It’s a great opportunity for both of them,” Vallverdu said. “I am very pleased for Andy and Tomas. It’s where they belong. They have been around semi-finals and finals of slams for the last five years so it’s nothing new. It was always going to happen and it’s great it happened early.

“I actually had a feeling it would happen here. If you would have told me in the beginning of the tournament this was going to happen, I would have signed up for it, Tomas would have and Andy as well.”

Vallverdu has known Murray since they were teenagers at the same tennis academy in Barcelona and admits it might initially be a “bit weird” not sitting in the Scot’s box on Rod Laver Arena after their title triumphs in the US Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics.

Berdych has yet to drop a shot in the championship and ended a record-equalling 17-match losing streak to Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals with a stunning 6-2 6-0 7-6 victory.

“It’s huge for him,” Vallverdu acknowledged. “Mentally it’s a huge win. It also sends a strong message to the locker room. I think everyone probably watched that match and saw his determination and the manner on the court and his willingness to win. He is going to draw a lot from it.

Meanwhile top seed Novak Djokovic is relishing the renewal of his intense Australian Open rivalry with defending champion Stan Wawrinka after both men enjoyed comfortable quarter-final wins in Melbourne yesterday.

Wawrinka continued his impressive title defence with a straight-sets win over Japan’s Kei Nishikori, before Djokovic outclassed the big-serving Milos Raonic on Rod Laver Arena.

“The crowd are definitely expecting a marathon like the last couple of years and I am sure both of us will give our best to perform the best possible tennis,” Djokovic said after beating eighth seed Raonic 7-6 (7/5) 6-4 6-2.

“We always ask from each other the most of our own abilities on the court so I am looking forward to it.”

In the women’s tournament a Russia-United States final is guaranteed with second seed Maria Sharapova taking on compatriot Ekaterina Makarova, the number 10 seed, in today’s first semi-final.

Serena Williams will face Madison Keys in the other semi-final. Williams is fearful she could be suffering from the virus which has seen fellow American Varvara Lepchenko hospitalised twice in the past few days.

“I’ve been sick the past few days. It’s just getting worse and worse. But hopefully it will start getting better.

“I heard it’s a virus going around. I think I caught it.”

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