Andy Murray eyes fifth final

Andy Murray (AFP)
Andy Murray (AFP)

Melbourne - Andy Murray has suffered through an eventful Australian Open but he will have his eye on a fifth final in seven years when he takes on a much-improved Milos Raonic in the semis on Friday.

It has been a particularly difficult tournament for the two-time major winner, who nearly pulled out when his father-in-law, coach Nigel Sears, collapsed at Rod Laver Arena last week.

Second-ranked Murray, who is yet to win the year's opening Grand Slam, also has a wary eye on events at home where his wife Kim Sears is heavily pregnant with their first child.

Despite all the distractions, 28-year-old Murray has worked his way to his 18th Grand Slam semi-final for his seventh meeting against big-serving Raonic, with the winner facing Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer in the final.

Raonic, now working with former world number one Carlos Moya, has impressed in reaching his second Grand Slam semi-final thanks to first-time wins over former winner Stan Wawrinka and Gael Monfils.

"After a tough year in 2014, I think I'm now established again at the top of the game and giving myself chances," Murray said.

"That's all I can keep doing and working hard. Yeah, two matches away potentially here. Give it my best over the next few days."

Both players have made noticeable improvements in their games in the run to the last four.

Murray's second serve, once considered a weakness, has more power under the coaching of Amelie Mauresmo. He hit a top speed of 160 kilometres per hour with his second serve during his quarter-final win over David Ferrer.

Such extra oomph on second serve gives Britain's Murray more weapons at the business end of the major to complement his already formidable return and defensive game.

Murray beat Raonic, the world number 14, in straight sets in their only Grand Slam meeting at the 2012 US Open, and overall both have three wins against each other.

Raonic is no longer just a one-dimensional huge server. His volleying has improved under Moya, and he has more confidence coming to the net.

"Significantly, I think I know better how to use my groundstrokes. But at the same time, because I'm getting to the ball in a better position, it's easier," the Canadian said.

"I don't feel like I'm getting hustled around the court that much. I feel like I can find my way back. I don't have to go for big shots on the run."

Raonic, who is also looking more composed and organised on court, said playing Murray was a big opportunity after he lost in straight sets to Federer in his only previous Grand Slam semi-final, at Wimbledon in 2014.

"It's a great opportunity for me. I had a disappointing semi-final two years ago, and I just want to change that story around and give myself another go with more experience," he said.

"I feel like I'm a better player than I was two years ago."

Raonic said he would be aiming to get Murray out of his comfort zone.

"We're both very different and I think improved players from 14 months ago," he said.

"So I have certain aspects that I would like to manipulate and use my game in, and I'm sure he's going to try to do a lot of different things, too.

"I think it's going to be a race to who can get in the comfort zone of themselves first."

The world number 14 Raonic has turned heads in Australia, beating Federer in the Brisbane International final and is unbeaten in nine matches this year.

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