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By Erik Gudris

Andy Murray (July 3, 2013) -- For Andy Murray, he put his nation through the ringer during a hard fought comeback from two sets to love down. For Jerzy Janowicz, the emotion of reaching his first ever Grand Slam semifinal seemed at times too much for him to take.

Now both men will face each other for a chance to reach the Wimbledon finals, not only for themselves, but for their nations as well.

Murray, who had not dropped a set all event, looked poised to do so again versus Spain's Fernando Verdasco, against who Murray held an 8-to-1 lifetime record.

But it was Verdasco who came out firing in the first set while Murray seemed at times passive and unsure of himself. Was it Murray's still-tender back? Was it the stifling yet friendly pressure of the Centre Court crowd? Whatever it was, Murray didn't handle Verdasco's pace well at all. Down break point and set point, Murray hurled in a horrible double fault to give Verdasco a one set lead.

Though Murray recovered in the second set to go up 3-0, that advantage melted away as Verdasco's strong hitting saw him first level the set then zoom ahead to 5-3. Fighting himself and his opponent, Murray sent a forehand long to give Verdasco a two sets to love lead. Unhappy times indeed for the Centre Court crowd.

But despite showing steady flashes of the same brilliance that took him into the top 10 a few years ago, the question remained - could Verdasco actually close out Murray? The Spaniard, despite his rock solid shots, has been known for his mental fragility in tight moments. His chances of pulling off the upset started to look more in doubt when Murray roared back to life and claimed the third set 6-1.

Murray continued the charge by seizing the fourth set, and suddenly it appeared he might roll through a fifth set. But Verdasco found new life and once again began playing with almost reckless regard of the score. At 3-4, Verdasco found himself down 15-30 on his serve but responded with a second serve ace down the middle. More massive serving brought Verdasco to 4-3 and soon he was two games from victory.

But due to indecision or respect for Murray's game, Verdasco missed a chance when up 0-30 in Murray's next service game. Verdasco, instead of hitting a backhand down the line for what would have been a winner, chose to go crosscourt to stay in the rally. Murray won that point and soon the game for 4-all.

Both men held serve for 5-all. But Murray upped his intensity at the right moment in the next game. Up a break point, Murray hit a potent forehand Verdasco couldn't handle to go up 6-5.

Despite a nation holding its breath, Murray looked more relaxed than anyone as he soon served out the remarkable 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 win.

Janowicz Becomes First Polish Man in Grand Slam Semi

Things were a little more straightforward if not just as emotional for No. 24 seed Jerzy Janowicz in his quarterfinal against fellow Pole Lukasz Kubot.

Janowicz's big serve and powerful groundstrokes proved too much for Kubot, who went 0-for-6 on break points chances - including one that was a set point for him late in the first set.

Janowicz, who cracked 30 aces in the match, broke Kubot late in the third set to go up 5-4. Janowicz once again unleashed his huge serve to close out the 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 win.

It was then that the emotion became too much for Janowicz as he sank to his knees on Court 1. He then joined Kubot at net as they shared a long embrace of commiseration that earned them a standing ovation. Both men exchanged shirts as well before walking off together.

Janowicz is now the first Polish man ever to reach a Grand Slam semifinal. Afterwards, Janowicz talked about the emotions swirling inside him after the match.

"I was practicing really tough my whole life," Janowicz said. "I had some troubles also during my career.  You are practicing and working for that kind of moment. So in my case, it's not easy for me to control these emotions."

Janowicz, who defeated Murray last year at the Paris Indoors, is expecting a tough atmosphere playing Murray on Centre Court. But he expects the pressure will be just as great on Murray.

"I hope Andy will feel some kind of pressure. I'm sure he feel some kind of pressure because Great Britain is waiting for the English champion in Wimbledon. So we'll see. I'm not thinking right now about this match. I have still one and a half day to recover, and we will see how it going to be."

That pressure to win his nation's Grand Slam is something Murray feels hasn't changed much since winning the U.S. Open last year.

"I think it's pretty much the same," Murray said. "Not a whole lot's changed. I mean, for me, I mean, I know if I had to finish my tennis career tomorrow, I'd be content that I won the US Open.  But, you know, I also wanted to try and win more. The fact I'm still playing, giving myself an opportunity to play in the latter stages of these events, I want to try to win them.  The pressure's still there. I put a lot of pressure on myself."

To borrow a line from the great Billie Jean King, "Pressure is a privilege." And it is a privilege both Janowicz and Murray will gladly accept as they meet for a chance to compete for the Wimbledon title on Sunday.

(Photo Credit: Stephen White/CameraSport)

 

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