INTO THE FINAL: Britain's Andy Murray returns a shot to Czech Republic's Tomas Berdych during their men's singles semifinal match, at the 2012 US Open tennis tournament, in New York, USA, yesterday. Murray won in four sets. —Photo: AP

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Murray wins windy US Open semifinal

l NEW YORK

Dealing with 20 mph wind that blew a changeover chair onto the US Open court on one point and yanked his hat off during another, Andy Murray navigated his way into his fifth Grand Slam final.

Now he'll try to win his first Grand Slam title—and first for any British man in 76 years.

Adapting to the conditions far better than his opponent did, Olympic champion Murray came back to beat mistake-prone Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (7) in a rain-delayed and wind-swept US Open semifinal, yesterday.

"It was brutal," Murray said about his 3-hour, 58-minute victory. "Hard to describe. You had to focus for every single point. Some of the hardest conditions I've ever played in, for sure, and I come from Scotland, so that's saying something."

Defending champion Novak Djokovic and fourth-seeded David Ferrer were scheduled to play the other semifinal later yesterday, weather permitting.

Showers in the nighttime forecast prompted the tournament to postpone the women's final between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka until today.

It is the fourth time in five years that the US Open women's championship was pushed back to Sunday. The men's final has been moved from Sunday to Monday each of the past four years, and that remained a possibility—if Djokovic and Ferrer weren't able to complete their semifinal yesterday.

The US Open is the only Grand Slam tournament that schedules two men's semifinals on Saturday. Next year, for the first time, a day off will be inserted between the semifinals and final, either by shifting the semis to Friday or by changing the title match to Monday.

This event is the first major since the 2004 French Open with neither Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal in the semifinals. Federer was beaten by Berdych in the quarterfinals, while Nadal did not enter the field, sidelined by a partially torn tendon in his left knee.

Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have combined to win 29 of the last 30 major titles, a stretch that began at the 2005 French Open.

The third-seeded Murray will get yet another chance to put his name on that list. The last major singles trophies for a British man were won by Fred Perry at Wimbledon and the US Championships in 1936.

Murray is playing confidently after beating Federer to win a gold medal for Britain at the London Games in August, about a month after losing to Federer in the Wimbledon final.

Before that, the Scot appeared in the final at the US Open in 2008, and the Australian Open in 2010 and 2011, settling for runner-up status each time. Only one other man in tennis history was defeated in his first four major finals—Ivan Lendl, who just so happens to be Murray's coach and was on hand yesterday.

While eliminating Federer on Wednesday, 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Berdych pounded his flat forehands right where he wanted them and made a total of 21 unforced errors in four sets. Bothered by the swirling air yesterday, the sixth-seeded Berdych nearly eclipsed that in the opening set alone, with 19, and finished with 64 unforced errors. Murray only made 20.

As Murray hit a serve to start the second set's last game, his changeover chair was blown over by a gust and, like tumbleweed, rolled onto the blue court, spilling all sorts of other items, too—racket bag, white towel, etc.

A let was called, cancelling the point, and both players smiled at the chaos. Murray held there to even the match at a set apiece.

Another strong burst knocked the 6-foot-5 Berdych off-balance as he was about to serve to begin the third, and he wound up getting broken at love.

Berdych repeatedly found simply launching a ball overhead for his service toss problematic, often letting it drop to the court without taking a swing. When he did actually serve, there still were plenty of issues, including six double-faults.

The match began more than an hour late after heavy rain—and even a tornado warning. That all dissipated, but the wind remained.

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