LONDON (Reuters) - Andy Murray found himself in the crosshairs of a bullet-serving, net-smashing giant on Friday, but held his nerve to reach a second Wimbledon final and set up another meeting with great rival Novak Djokovic.
The second seed was a set down to the 6-foot-8 Jerzy Janowicz, but tamed the 140 mph serves that came hurtling out of the sky to move into Sunday’s showpiece with a 6-7(2) 6-4 6-4 6-3 win that began in the afternoon sun and finished under the Center Court lights.
Janowicz turned Wimbledon’s hallowed turf into the scene of a naval battle as he launched a barrage of heavy duty cannon fire in his first grand slam semi-final.
Murray, however, showed why he is considered among the very best returners in the game and was not going to be bullied by the lofty Pole.
He subdued his fiery opponent with a forehand winner after two hours and 52 minutes of heated combat in which Janowicz had transformed himself into a comedy villain after taking his anger out on the net in the third set.
Murray was calm and collected.
There was none of the emotion that greeted his victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the same point 12 months ago, just a hefty fist pump and swift salute to the crowd.
The Briton is now a player who expects to be competing on the biggest stages. This will be his third consecutive major final, having missed the French Open through injury, and yet another duel between the world’s top two players.
After Murray claimed the U.S. Open in September and Djokovic exacted revenge at the Australian Open in January, this has the potential to be another classic.
Djokovic, as world number one and 2011 champion, will be favorite, but Murray might fancy his chances after the Serb was taken to five sets by Juan Martin Del Potro in an energy-sapping, record-breaking epic on Friday.
Murray now has another opportunity to shed the weighty millstone that has been placed around his neck of becoming the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936 following last year’s final defeat by Roger Federer.
“I think I’ll be probably in a better place mentally,” Murray told reporters, referring to the tear-soaked disappointment of 12 months ago.
”I would hope so just because I’ve been there before. I won a grand slam. I would hope I would be a little bit calmer going into Sunday.
“I might wake up on Sunday and be unbelievably nervous, more nervous than I ever have been before. But I wouldn’t expect to be.”
He would not have expected an easy ride from Janowicz who had beaten him before, but he might have been surprised by the way he coped with the occasion of a maiden last-four appearance.
He hit the 140mph mark with only his second serve of the match and saved his first break point in the third game with a 121 mph second serve.
There was no sense that the giant Pole was over-awed and when he raced into a 4-1 lead in the third set he looked every inch a potential grand slam finalist and certainly not a player who is currently ranked 22nd in the world.
It was an almost impossible ask for him to maintain the level he set in the early stages and when his concentration slipped, Murray took control.
The first set was dominated by serve but after Murray squandered a break point in the third game followed by two set points on the Janowicz serve at 5-4, it went to a tiebreak.
The Pole hit top gear and powered through it 7-2, to delight the large contingent of his supporters in the players’ box, who clapped and cheered ceaselessly throughout.
The pendulum, however, swung immediately back Murray’s way at the start of the second set.
He broke in the first game and clung on to his own serve to level the match.
Janowicz was far from disheartened, however, and continued to send bullet serves across the net, following them up consistently with heavy-duty groundstrokes that pushed Murray deep in the court.
He broke early in the third set and led 4-1 to regain the initiative, before the wheels started to come off.
Murray is an old stager having won six previous grand slam semi-finals and drew inspiration from the raucous home crowd, winning five games in a row to take it 6-4.
As the evening gloom set in on Center Court, officials made the decision to close the roof and finish the match under the lights, to the obvious annoyance of Murray who protested loudly.
When the players returned to court, however, the momentum remained with Murray, who broke for a 2-1 lead in the fourth and took Janowicz’s serve again to reach his second successive Wimbledon final.
Editing by Ed Osmond