By Ros Satar

  • Stan Wawrinka [3] def. Andy Murray [1] 6-7(6) 6-3 5-7 7-6(3) 6-1
  • Lack of match wins leading up took its toll at the end
  • Looking ahead to the grass with a stronger base
PARIS, FRANCE – Andy Murray may well have confounded expectations of many after reaching the semi-final of Roland Garros, eventually losing out to Stan Wawrinka in the fifth set.

 

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Stan Wawrinka [3] def. Andy Murray [1] 6-7(6) 6-3 5-7 7-6(3) 6-1

 

Andy Murray’s lack of match-wins in a frustrating clay court season after the high standards he had set in the last couple of years finally told as he had to admit that Stan Wawrinka just played too well at the end of their five-setter on Friday.

The pace set by breath-taking rallies and hard-hitting tactics saw Murray get the first chance for a lead, unconverted and Wawrinka always looked like he was knocking on the door. His persistence told as he took his second chance on the Murray serve, but the Brit who had been playing better with each round broke straight back to eventually force a tie-break.

A nervy affair in the tie-break saw a 4-2 lead for Murray eroded to give a set point to Wawrinka, before losing three points on the bounce for Murray to nab the first set.

Stan Wawrinka – 2017 Roland Garros (c) Christopher Johnson

Wawrinka, who was heading for his 10th straight win having defended his title in Geneva the week before stayed toe-to-toe with Murray in the second set before again becoming the first to claim a break over the Brit, breaking him again for the second set.

He may, though, look back on the third set as a real opportunity lost, relinquishing a 3-0 lead as the momentum switched between the players with Murray effectively stealing the third set for a 2-1 lead. The fourth set was where the magic was though, with nary a break point between them on the way to a tie-break where this time Wawrinka had a 4-2 lead, and made no mistake in holding on to bring about the decider.

The lack of match-wins and indeed match fitness for Murray started to tell – Wawrinka was energised with Murray beginning to look decidedly weary. The Swiss was in ruthless form, jumping out to a 5-0 lead before Murray at least got one of the three breaks back, but in this form, Wawrinka looks very much a contender for a second French Open title.

 

‘Played to well in the end’

It was Murray’s longest match of the tournament, where he had been tested almost all the way – taken to four sets in his first two matches before steadying the ship, until the quarter-final where Kei Nishikori took the early initiative, forcing Murray to get the job done once more in four sets.

Having been by far the aggressor for most of the match, Wawrinka had played the key moments far better towards the end of the match, especially in that final set where the momentum firmly stuck in Swiss territory.

Murray said: “He played obviously better in that set. I lost a little bit of speed on my serve which wasn’t allowing me to dictate many points on my own serve. He obviously hit some greats shots in the fifth, but I didn’t keep the score close enough to sort of put him under pressure. It’s a lot harder to pull off some of the shots that he was hitting at the end if the score was a bit closer and wasn’t able to do that.

“When you’re 5-0 down and three breaks behind in the fifth set you’re not that optimistic. But I tried to keep fighting. The 3-0 game, we were at Love-30 in that game. Had I managed to get a break there I think might have been a little bit different. I didn’t. And then that was it. You know, he played too well in the end.”

 

‘I’m proud of the tournament I had’

This year has been a bit of a bumpy ride for Murray whose efforts to get to the World No. 1 spot may well have left him drained His early exit in Australia, his almost perennial early exit in Indian Wells and then withdrawing from Miami left him short on matches even before the clay court season.

And while many feel his journey to World No. 1 originated on the grass, Murray was defending some hefty points on the clay. He reached the third round in Monte Carlo where he was defending semi-final points, but it was the first real test of his elbow injury.

He took a wildcard into Barcelona where his run to the semi-final was his best passage of play as he came to the French Open with no back to back wins in the double-header Masters tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

He said: “I’m proud of the tournament I had. I did well considering. You know, I was one tiebreak away from getting to the final when I came in really struggling. So I have to be proud of that.

“Maybe the lack of matches hurt me a little bit in the end today. You know, that was a very high intensity match. A lot of long points. When you haven’t been playing loads, you know, over four, four-and-a-half hours, that can catch up to you a little bit. I only have myself to blame for that, for the way I played coming into the tournament.

“But I turned my form around, you know, really, really well and ended up having a good tournament, all things considered.”

 

Looking ahead to the grass

Now the big points come – he won Queen’s on the way to winning his second Wimbledon title, and with scant time to turn around the adjustment from clay to grass, the pressure is on, but the signs of improvement from those frustrating performances in Madrid and Rome are there.

Murray assessed: “I don’t know how close I am to [my best level]. I played pretty well, you know, these last few matches. Even when you’re playing well, you’re not going to win every match you play, but I put myself in a position to reach a slam final, so I’m obviously playing pretty good.

“You know, played some good stuff here. How close that is to my tennis from last year, I don’t know. Very difficult to say. You know, hopefully it gives me a good base, you know, to go into the grass court season.

“Often when I have done well on the clay, I feel like that’s helped me a little bit on the grass. Certainly the matches are not as physical, so going through matches like I did today is a good step for me.”

Murray will be next be playing at the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club London, which takes place between 19-25 June.

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