By Jake Davies
- Andy Murray  vs Stanislas Wawrinka 
- Rafael Nadal  vs Dominic Thiem 
PARIS, FRANCE – After Novak Djokovic‘s shock defeat, can Dominic Thiem halt Rafael Nadal‘s bid for La Decima while Andy Murray closes in on another Roland Garros final.
Andy Murray  vs Stanislas Wawrinka  H2H: Murray leads 10-7
In a competitive head-to-head spanning 12 years, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka will clash for the eighteen time on Friday in a thrilling Roland-Garros semi-final match-up. The No.1 and No.3 seed were already projected to meet at this stage, but with the lacklustre start to Murray’s year and Wawrinka’s well-documented inconsistencies it looked very unlikely.
Murray has made his way through a tough draw, beating the likes of Juan Martin Del Potro, Martin Klizan and Kei Nishikori, while Wawrinka is yet to a drop a set this fortnight, which illustrates just how dominant he has been.
Murray is one of tennis’ great problem-solvers on the court, but the question is whether Wawrinka poses an even greater problem? The World No.1 Murray is chasing a first ever Roland Garros title, having come so close during a stellar clay season last year, in which Murray beat Wawrinka at the semi-final stage of Roland-Garros last season.
The problem for Murray is that a lot of this match depends on his opponent. Wawrinka has the ability to take the racquet out of his opponent’s hands, which is what we saw in the 2015 Roland Garros final, where Wawrinka beat Djokovic with ease after dropping the first set.
The two key points for Murray will be how well he defends his second serve, which will dictate the course of the rally that follows and whether Murray decides to take up an aggressive court position. The deeper Murray is behind the baseline then that could allow Wawrinka to take control of the first and second shots of the rally.
Murray has made a career out of finding ways to win from impossible positions and by proving many people wrong, but I sense that Wawrinka is playing the better tennis and he usually becomes even more dangerous when he reaches the important stages of a Grand Slam.
Prediction: Wawrinka in four sets.
Rafael Nadal  vs Dominic Thiem  H2H: Nadal leads 4-2
Rafael Nadal‘s performances over the course of the 2017 season has been nothing short of impressive. Like all great champions they find a way to win and Nadal is a fine example of a professional athlete that has experienced many low points but found a way to the dizziest of heights once again. He has returned to his imperious clay form and subsequently is the favourite for a tenth Roland-Garros title. He has two more steps to that tenth title, but he first faces No.6 seed Dominic Thiem in the semi-final.
The Austrian beat Nadal in the quarter-finals of Rome in the build up to the second Grand Slam of the year and has shown steady improvement against the nine-time champion in 2 of the 3 meetings between the two in the Madrid final and Rome.
Nadal’s renowned for his aggressive counter-punching and his court coverage from the back of the court, so the focus will be on whether he can generate heavy top spin with his forehand to prevent Thiem from dominating him in effect.
Nadal goes in as favourite, but it should be a fascinating watch to see how Thiem handles the occasion in a second ever Grand Slam semi-final.
Prediction: Nadal in four sets.
Featured Image Credit: Christopher Johnson
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