Men's match of the day: Wawrinka v. Murray
No.2 seed Andy Murray must snap a three-match losing streak against defending champion Stan Wawrinka to reach his first Roland-Garros final in what promises to be a blockbuster.
Andy Murray has equalled his career-best Roland-Garros with a fourth semi-final appearance, but of course there is only one way for defending champion Stan Wawrinka to equal his career best here. Their match here will decide who progresses to the decider.
Actually, the record between the No.2 and No.3 seeds contains some surprises. Given that Murray is 29 and Wawrinka is 31, they have naturally met many times, and currently the Scot leads the head-to-head 8-7. So far, so reasonable. But for one thing, Wawrinka has won the last three of their jousts, with Murray winless since they met in Tokyo 2012; and more startling still, Murray was unable to capture so much as a set in any of those last three defeats. A straight sets win for either man in this Roland-Garros semi-final is difficult to envisage - although on clay against Wawrinka, Murray is again in statistical trouble, without a set from two defeats on the red dirt.
What's on the line?
There is an intriguing equation between these two. Each has two Slam titles to his name, but Wawrinka is generally perceived to have exceeded expectations by capturing his two, while observers have questioned why Murray has been unable to build further since winning Wimbledon three years ago. So even as defending champion, incongruously it feels as if Wawrinka has less to lose going into this semi-final. Once again, the focus has broadly been more on other players as the draw has unfolded. But if that means he has been overlooked, such details do not rile the Swiss, and it is clear he is utterly indifferent about whether or not he ranks as one of the Big Four. Meanwhile, Murray lacks no ambition: he has stated his goal here is not only to reach his first Roland-Garros final, but to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires. The current owner of the trophy will have a great deal to say about that.
And the winner is...?
Tough one... but Wawrinka edges it. Murray is on a 10-match winning streak following his tournament victory in Rome, with the added boost of that first triumph over Novak Djokovic since his Wimbledon crown of 2013. But Wawrinka too has found his clay-court form at exactly the right time with that title win in Geneva right before Roland-Garros, and that gives him a current streak of nine wins. He has developed a habit of wearing these big occasions lightly, whereas Murray is more likely to make any irritation with himself highly visible. Sometimes the Scot thrives on that noisy self-propelled rocket fuel, and on occasion he trips himself up. Much may hinge on Wawrinka focusing on his own proven ability to beat Murray, on clay and other surfaces. This one could be riveting.