Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic will meet in their third consecutive clay court final after both players came through contrasting quarter- and semi-final matches in the French Open at Roland Garros earlier this week. The pair are set to start at 2pm tomorrow, with Djokovic leading the 2016 head-to-head by two matches to one.
Tomorrow Andy Murray is in his first French Open final.
He said this on Facebook 👀 pic.twitter.com/f4idDhNSy3
— BBC Tennis (@bbctennis) June 4, 2016
10 men have made singles finals at all 4 slams in the Open era: Laver-Rosewall-Lendl-Edberg-Courier- Agassi-Fed-Rafa-Nole & @andy_murray 🙂
— Steven (@GBtennis) June 4, 2016
Murray managed to come through two very tricky opponents to reach the final; despite Roger Federer’s ever-lengthening injury layoff keeping him absent from Murray’s half of the draw throughout, home favourite Richard Gasquet and reigning champion Stanislas Wawrinka were not opponents to be sniffed at in the quarters and semis respectively. But Murray, who is emerging as somewhat of a clay court maestro, dropped a set in each match to navigate through to the final with relative ease.
The match against Gasquet came first, and the world #10 clearly had the backing of the home crowd throughout, especially given he was the last Frenchman left in the draw. And the ninth seed snatched the first set from the claws of Murray, with the Scot squandering a 5-2 lead to lose the set 7-5. Murray did well to steady the ship and remain relatively calm (by his standards), and there was some quite phenomenal exchanges from the two players at the net in the midst of the second set before Murray was once again was pegged back from a break up in the second set by the Frenchman, who forced a tiebreak.
Murray, who had shown his resilience in the earlier rounds by coming from behind against both Radek Stepanek and Mathias Bourgue, took control of the tiebreak early and eventually levelled the match, and from that moment it seemed the Frenchman’s resistance was broken. The Brit dropped just two more games, wrapping up a 5-7 7-6(3) 6-0 6-2 victory to progress to the semi-finals once again.
Murray had never made the final here, though, and had to get past Stan Wawrinka, the reigning champion who had denied Djokovic the last of his remaining Grand Slam trophies after a superlative performance last year. Wawrinka, who at 31 years of age seems to still be at his peak in terms of tennis ability and ranking, is a dangerous opponent with a fearsome backhand, but for the most part of the opening two sets, Murray neutralised the Swiss attack and took a two-sets-to-love lead after three breaks of serve in total.
Wawrinka fought back in the third but was never really in danger of winning the match, with Murray wrapping up a very supreme-looking victory 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-2 against the world #4. Despite Wawrinka’s tendency to come to the net (one third of all service points the Swiss played ended with him at the net), Murray hit 25 winners and 86% of games when he won the first point, capping it off with a healthy 79% of first serve points won. It means that Murray is the first British man to reach the Roland Garros final since 1937.
Now comes the hard part: beating Djokovic in a Grand Slam final. The Brit is 10-23 win-loss against the Serb in all competitions, but on the clay this year, they are one apiece, with Novak winning in Madrid and Murray clinching the title in Rome. Both players are sublime when it comes to winning points on the second serve return: Murray is #2 on tour with 56.9%, while Djokovic is, of course, #1 with 57.1%, while both players’ records on the clay this season is tarnished by solitary losses to each other. Perhaps the key statistic is Djokovic’s 30-5 win-loss against top 10 players in the last 12 months, although the Serb, once again chasing the career Grand Slam, may feel an extra modicum of pressure once again which may play into the Brit’s hands very nicely indeed.
May the best man win and all that – as long as it’s Murray!