June 1, 2016
Andy Murray will face Stan Wawrinka in the Roland Garros semi-finals – but his victory over Richard Gasquet came at what price?
The Brit adopted an expensive drop-shot strategy to exhaust his opponent. In doing so he cost himself the first set and almost the second too.
The Scot admitted: ‘I was using a lot of drop shots. They were working early and maybe I played a few too many in the second. It was very, very important to win the second set. It would have been tough to come back if I’d lost that one.’
Murray had been playing for more than two hours even before the second set was completed on a tie break. It wasn’t as easy as the 7-3 score line might suggest.
The match effectively turned on a Murray drop shot that Gasquet reached with ease and should have dispatched, clipping the ribbon instead to allow Murray to stay in the tie-break fight.
In contrast Novak Djokovic had already wrapped up his victory over Roberto Bautista Agut relatively quickly, despite late resistance from the Spaniard.
The world number one was delighted to beat Bautista Agut 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-5 in the end – and why not? Novak was already 4-1 up in the third when play resumed.
‘Today I came out on court with very good concentration and I’m glad I saved some energy for tomorrow,’ Djokovic said simply.
Stan Wawrinka must have felt similar sentiments as he polished off Albert Ramos Vinolas 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (9-7) to keep himself fresh for his semi-final against Murray.
Murray had the tougher match against Gasquet and yet he could have been equally ruthless after he commanded 5-2 leads in both of the first sets.
Instead he threw that first set away and risked the second with his drop shot obsession. True, it drained Gasquet eventually and Murray won 5-7, 7-6 (7-3) 6-0, 6-2. But in the long run it has probably drained Murray too – because the match lasted three hours and 23 minutes and at Roland Garros 2016 Murray has already been on court for about fifteen hours in total.
Looking ahead to his clash with Stan the Man, Murray said:’He has played great tennis here for the last couple of years and he is the defending champion. It’ll be tough and I just hope I can play my best tennis and reach my first final here.’
They say Murray is one of the fittest players on the circuit and he will need to draw on all those reserves now.
Trouble is, one of his biggest rivals for the title – Djokovic – is even fitter according to as sound a tennis judge as the great John McEnroe.
McEnroe said:’We’re talking astronomical levels of fitness but I’d say, all things considered, Novak has the edge.’
And that’s before you consider those extra Murray hours on court this year at Roland Garros, should the pair eventually meet in the final.
Serena Williams. Certainly didn’t waste any time as she took apart Elina Svitolina 6-1, 6-1. Who can stop her from grabbing a 22nd Grand Slam now?
Only Garbine Muguruza has only shown the strength and quality required so far.