Second-seeded Andy Murray reached the 2016 Australian Open final for the fifth time in seven years Friday in Melbourne, as he outlasted No. 13 Milos Raonic in a five-set marathon that captivated the crowd at Rod Laver Arena.
Murray's big-match experience showed in the contest's most important moments, as he battled back after going down 2-1 in sets to pick up the 4-6, 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2 victory. By virtue of his win, Murray will take on No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the highly anticipated final.
While Murray and Raonic undoubtedly headlined Day 12 with their spectacular match, key tilts in the women's and mixed doubles were contested Friday in Melbourne as well.
Here is a full rundown of results from Friday's top matches, as well as a recap of how they played out, with a special focus on the fantastic battle between Murray and Raonic.
Day 12 Singles and Doubles Results
|Friday's Australian Open Scores|
|Event||Round||Winning Player||Losing Player||Score|
|Men's Singles||Semifinal||(2) Andy Murray||(13) Milos Raonic||4-6, 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2|
|Women's Doubles||Final||(1) Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza||(7) Andrea Hlavackova & Lucie Hradecka||7-6(1), 6-3|
|Mixed Doubles||Semifinal||CoCo Vandeweghe & Horia Tecau||Andreja Klepac & Treat Huey||6-4, 6-4|
|Mixed Doubles||Semifinal||(5) Elena Vesnina & Bruno Soares||(1) Sania Mirza & Ivan Dodig||7-5, 7-6(4)|
Day 12 Recap
Murray entered Friday's semifinal as the favorite due to his track record of success Down Under, but with Raonic playing perhaps the best tennis of his career, he was forced to dig deep and come from behind.
While the Brit deserves a great deal of credit for overcoming a 2-1 sets deficit to win the match, his powerful opponent suffered an injury in the third set that hampered him the rest of the way.
According to AusOpen.com, Raonic acknowledged that the ailment compromised him and had something to do with his collapse in the latter part of the match: "Just a difficulty to push off my leg with my adductor midway through the third set. That's what it was. Yeah, it's unfortunate. Probably the most heartbroken I felt on court, but that's what it is."
Murray was especially dominant in the fifth set, as he won all but one of his service points, while Raonic won just 25 percent of his second-serve points and made 16 unforced errors.
The second-seeded star was happy with the way he served from the fourth set on, but he also felt for Raonic having to battle through an injury, per ATPWorldTour.com:
When you play against someone who is tough to break like Milos, you need to protect your own serve to put pressure on them. I think at the end of the fourth set I did very well. I won some of the break points I faced. I came up with some good second serves. I changed the position of the second serves on a few points. Served close to the lines. That was big.
Obviously if the injury affected him significantly at the end, then that's tough, especially at this stage of an event. As the player, it's obviously very tough when that happens. I've been in that position myself many times before, as well. It's not easy.
Despite the limitations, Raonic largely looked great in his second career Grand Slam semifinal, and he established himself as a threat to challenge top stars like Murray, Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka for many years to come.
Damien Cox of Sportsnet is among those who believe the 25-year-old has what it takes to win a Grand Slam title at some point after what he accomplished in Melbourne:
Murray succeeded Friday by limiting mistakes with 38 winners to just 28 unforced errors in five sets. Raonic dictated play for the most part with 72 winners, but he also made 78 unforced errors, which was among the match's biggest deciding factors.
If the Brit can keep up the level of play he displayed in the semis in terms of not beating himself, then he has a chance to compete with Djokovic.
Elsewhere, in women's doubles, the dominance of the top-ranked team continued, as Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza defeated No. 7 Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 7-6(1), 6-3 to win their third consecutive Grand Slam title.
According to Infostrada Sports, the Swiss and Indian connection became the first women's doubles team to accomplish that feat in six years:
Gracenote Olympic @GracenoteGold
Hingis/Mirza are first women's double to win 3 Grand Slams in a row since Williams sisters won 4 in a row 2009-10. #ausopen2016-1-29 10:43:45
In addition to playing some great tennis Friday, Hingis and Mirza really seemed to be enjoying themselves, as evidenced by this video, courtesy of the Australian Open's official Twitter account:
#Hingis hasn't lost her touch, with this epic shot just kissing the line #ausopen Watch more https://t.co/Ek545ZyE1J https://t.co/lPh3f6p4I82016-1-29 06:42:31
Hingis was once the No. 1 ranked women's singles player in the world, winning five career Grand Slam titles, including three Aussie Open crowns.
She has since gone on to become a dominant doubles player, winning 12 Grand Slam championships in that realm. Provided she and Mirza keep up the level of play that has led them on a 36-match winning streak, they have a golden opportunity to complete the non-calendar Grand Slam at the French Open in a few months.
In other action, the mixed doubles final was decided Friday by virtue of a pair of straight-sets results in the semis.
The unseeded duo of American CoCo Vandeweghe and Romania's Horia Tecau punched their ticket to the final with a 6-4, 6-4 triumph over Andreja Klepac and Treat Huey.
They will have their work cut out for them when it comes to winning a title, though, as they will take on No. 5 Elena Vesnina and Bruno Soares, who defeated the top-seeded pairing of Mirza and Ivan Dodig 7-5, 7-6(4).
While there is a great deal of intrigue surrounding the doubles scene, the main storyline coming out of Day 12 is the impending clash between Murray and Djokovic in the men's singles final.
Djoker is the unquestioned top player in the world, and Murray has certainly had trouble against him over the years, including at the Aussie Open, with three losses to him in the finals, according to ESPN Stats & Info:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Andy Murray advances to 5th Australian Open final; T-2nd-most by a man in the Open Era. He's 0-3 vs Djokovic there: https://t.co/tAeswgWlfi2016-1-29 14:15:10
Murray does have a pair of Grand Slam victories against Nole in his career, but their rivalry has been remarkably one-sided in the Serb's favor since Murray's 2013 Wimbledon title, per Sky Sports News HQ:
Sky Sports News HQ @SkySportsNewsHQ
Since Murray won the 2013 Wimbledon Final, the pair have met 11 times with Djokovic winning 10 of those #SSNHQ https://t.co/cAxtiVy7NY2016-1-29 12:52:20
Despite his recent struggles against Djokovic, Murray is confident in his ability to beat him, especially after pushing him to four sets in last year's final, according to ATPWorldTour.com:
Last year here is a good match for me to look at because the tennis, in my opinion, wasn't miles apart. It was a very close match for three sets. The most important thing for me is to sustain my level for long enough, not just for one set here or there, a few games here or there. I need to do it for a very long period if I want to get the win. That's my challenge on Sunday.
I have a very good shot on Sunday if I play my best tennis. I don't think many people are expecting me to win on Sunday. I have to just believe in myself, have a solid game plan, and hopefully execute it and play well. There's no reason it's not possible for me to win.
Djokovic won three of four Grand Slam titles in 2015, and he is arguably as dominant as any men's tennis player has ever been.
If Murray is going to add to his Grand Slam title haul of two, he will almost certainly need to beat Djoker on the big stage again at some point.
He has a great opportunity ahead of him in Melbourne, and although Djokovic is the overwhelming favorite on the heels of his fantastic performance against Federer in the semifinals, the mettle Murray showed against Raonic should give him a chance to hang in there and vie for the first Australian Open championship of his career.
Stats via AusOpen.com.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.