Three will become two at the Australian Open 2016 on Friday when the last remaining spot in the men’s singles final is decided.
Andy Murray takes on Milos Raonic at around 08:30 UK time for the right to face defending champion and world number one Novak Djokovic in the championship match.
We didn’t fare too well in the women’s semi final on Thursday, with Serena Williams destroying Aga Radwanska, and that’s the chance you take if you take Serena on – she can make you look rather silly.
And the world number one produced precisely the wrong time as far as I was concerned to produce perhaps one of her best opening sets ever to dismiss the Pole with no reply.
Andy Murray vs Milos Raonic
Back to the men’s then and this second semi final is a really intriguing affair, with a confident and in-form Raonic taking on a Murray who has endured a rather demanding tournament so far.
Winning a major over two weeks is an exhausting achievement for body and mind and surely Murray must be feeling it somewhat with all of the off-court worries playing on his mind as well as some tough tennis on-court.
It was a physical match, as ever, against David Ferrer and during that one Murray was up to his usual leg-grabbing tricks, with much of that one being played in a break in the rain and in hot conditions.
It’s always hard to tell how much of Murray’s histrionics are down to genuine pain, so let’s assume he’s okay for this seventh career meeting with Raonic in what has been a competitive series for the most part.
The studious Raonic will have a clear game plan for this one, as he always seems to these days, and that will no doubt involve coming to the net more, as he has been doing of late.
But the Canadian has enjoyed enough success against Murray before the improvements he made in the off-season to give this match a little bit of a feel of a potential upset about it if Raonic plays his absolute best tennis.
The pair haven’t met on a decent-paced outdoor hard court since Tokyo 2012 and they probably won’t again, with the forecast predicting solid rain all day on Friday, but a clear spell is expected around the time of the match at 08:30 UK time (19:30 local).
So this is another one where the playing conditions might be very different from those expected, but I shall assume that it’ll be played under the roof, as Raonic’s last match (and part of Murray’s) was in the quarter finals.
Both players enjoy playing indoors, with Murray saying that the best tennis in the Ferrer match came under the roof, and Raonic certainly loves the conditions so there’ll be no complaints from either.
Milos will surely look to exploit the weak second serve of Murray, which is coming in at less than 90mph this tournament and was broken four times in three sets by Bernard Tomic.
That is slower than Ferrer’s and that of Serena Williams and the more aggressive approach on return this year of Raonic will see the Canadian really have a go at that weakness in the Murray game.
In contrast Raonic clocks in at 108mph on his second serve and faced only two break points in four sets against a decent returner in Monfils and I suspect that Murray will have to do this the hard way to win, but he will surely have success in passing Raonic if the Canadian overplays the serve and volley game, with Murray loving a target to aim at.
The improved returning of Raonic has seen him play only two tie breaks in 18 sets so far at the Australian Open, while Murray has played only two in 17 sets, so the under 1.5 tie breaks at 1.54 could be of interest here.
At around the same price the over 3.5 sets also looks highly likely, with either of those options decent choices for ‘sure thing’ backers, with a straight sets win for either man surely a longs odds-against shot.
Murray’s experience at the business end of majors will see him win this one I think, but it should be a real test if Raonic serves as he can, and Murray will need to be at his sharpest to do so.
I’m expecting Raonic to be competitive here, but the 3.85 about a 3-1 win for the Scot looks the call.
Long shot: Back Murray to beat Raonic 3-1 at 3.85