Melbourne :Andy Murray must overcome gatecrasher David Ferrer at the Australian Open on Friday to get his chance of Grand Slam redemption and break through for his first major title.
Rafael Nadal was expected to be waiting for the taciturn Scot in the semi-finals at the year's opening Slam, but things didn't go to plan as the world number one came to grief with an unexpected injury.
Instead it will be another Spaniard, world number seven Ferrer, Nadal's conqueror in straight sets, who will stand in the way of Murray's second straight Australian final on Sunday.
Murray describes his defeat to Roger Federer in last year's Melbourne final as his greatest tennis disappointment, after holding five set points in a marathon third set only to lose in straights.
The Scot also fell to Federer in the 2008 US Open final in only his 12th major, so the yearning for another crack at winning a Grand Slam has become even more intense.
For that to happen, 23-year-old Murray must overturn a losing 2-3 record against Ferrer.
"Unless you've been in those positions before you can't explain what the pressure's like," Murray said.
"You expect a lot of yourself. You want to perform your best right at the end of the event. I'll be putting pressure on myself to play well."
But the hang-dog Murray, described as mournful by one local newspaper this week, believes he has the formula to finally land a major title.
"I feel just way more experienced. I know how to deal with playing deep into Grand Slam events now, how to get prepared for them mentally and physically. It's something that I'm a lot better at," he said.
Murray has looked good in his five matches at the Open and dropped only his first set of the year before overcoming Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3 in the quarters.
The Scot is one of the best defensive players on the tour and has tremendous court speed to chase down balls and put them away for winners. But he will need to be on top of his game to ward off the challenge of Ferrer. Super-fit Ferrer is in his second Grand Slam semi-final after reaching the last four at the 2007 US Open where he lost to Novak Djokovic.
Ferrer comes into the match on a nine-match winning streak after claiming his 10th career title in Auckland before coming to Melbourne.
"I need to play very focused and return very good because Andy has a very good first serve," Ferrer said.
Ferrer, 28, played the most tour games last season with 84 and said he was in tip-top condition.
"Last year I played a lot of matches and it's very important for me," Ferrer said. "My game is very physical. I need to play a lot of matches for my confidence.
"I am not tired, because I stopped for two weeks to enjoy my holidays. So I am in perfect condition.
"Andy has more Grand Slam experience than me. But right now I am playing a lot of matches and I want to enjoy this moment. I just need to fight a lot, like every match of my life."
The winner will face either Federer or 2008 champion Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final.