June 3, 2016
Andy Murray’s performance against defending champion Stan Wawrinka was so good for the first two sets, it had to be seen to be believed.
Poor Stan didn’t know what had hit him as he was forced to relinquish his crown somewhat unceremoniously, though he did at least salvage some pride in the third.
For the most part, Murray’s 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 win was almost like watching a new player, in light of what had gone before in Paris this year.
In the second set alone, Murray won a colossal 92% of points behind his first serve, and a much improved 67% behind his usually-vulnerable second serve.
Wawrinka never really got out of the blocks until the third, his mind apparently scrambled, though he did find some clarity and zip before it was too late. Not enough to complete a comeback, though.
Surely the superb Brit has never played better overall on clay? He said afterwards:’I knew today if I wanted to win I was going to have to play one of my best clay court matches. Stan has been unbelievable for the last two years. I played one of my best matches. I’m looking forward to the final now.’
What a fitting way for Murray to reach his first Roland Garros final. It is his tenth Grand Slam final and he becomes the tenth man in the Open era to reach the final of all four Grand Slams.He couldn’t go one step further and win it, could he?
Asked about reaching his first Slam final on clay, Murray replied: ‘I feel extremely proud, I never expected to reach the final here, I’ve always struggled on clay until the last two years. I hope I can play a good match for all of the crowd on Sunday.’
If the battling Scot repeats this kind of form on Sunday, anything is possible. And Novak Djokovic will have to raise his game further still if he is going to seal that elusive Career Slam.
How did Murray come up with this new level, when he has done everything the hard way until now?
Where did the fresh energy come from, when he has wasted so much of that precious commodity in the last fortnight? His fitness and powers of recovery are extraordinary.
Maybe Murray knew he had to be out of this world, to try to win quickly and leave enough in the tank for the supreme challenge – Djokovic, on the verge of greatness.
Andy’s plan came slightly unstuck in the third – and he had to play an extra set. But he broke immediately in the fourth, did so again later and finished the job in style. To do so in two hours and thirty-five minutes was surely as much as he could have hoped for.
While Novak also looked deeply impressive in the first two sets against young Dominic Thiem, he too faltered in the third and suddenly found himself 0-3 down.
The world number one wasn’t going to stand for that, of course. Almost in the blink of an eye, Djokovic, seeking to hold all four Grand Slams simultaneously, was 4-3 up with the benefit of a break.
The Serb closed out 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 and is perfectly capable of stopping Murray in his tracks, as he usually does.
It is his fourth Roland Garros final. Surely Novak will not be denied this time? As usual, he seems in control of his destiny. But that Career Slam isn’t in the bag just yet. Not the way Murray is playing.
Novak said after his victory:’It’s been a wonderful year since the last final and to reach it again is very special for me. It’s high on the priority list and I feel like every day is getting better. I tried to stay calm, be aggressive and I’ve done well.
‘Yes, I’ve been watching the scoreboard to see what has been happening in the Murray v Wawrinka match. I’m off to watch the end of it now.’
Djokovic must have been delighted that Stan the Man stretched things out a little. And Novak will still feel he should win, despite Murray’s heroics.
And yet there is something special about Andy as he goes into this final. He has just hit the kind of form that saw him beat Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon, 2013.
Djokovic still starts as the strong favourite. But with Murray sporting a new-found confidence on clay, it should be a Roland Garros showpiece to remember.
And why shouldn’t the rivalry come to the boil once more in London in a few weeks’ time? How lucky we are to be watching such amazing tennis in Europe this summer!
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