June 2, 2016 - 2:56pm
Andy Murray stands on the verge of tennis history yet again. He knows a win overStan Wawrinka in the semi-finals of the French Open on Friday will put him in his first final here – completing the list for all four majors and becoming the first British player to get to the concluding day in Paris since Bunny Austin in 1937.
But Murray is not content just to arrive. He wants to leave with his third slam trophy, aware that will almost certainly mean beating Novak Djokovic in the final.
“I’m here to try to win the tournament, not to just make the final,” Murray said after coming from a set and 3-1 down in the second-set tie-break to beat the briefly inspired then ultimately bewildered Frenchman Richard Gasquet 5-7, 7-6 (7-3), 6-0, 6-2 in the quarter-finals on a cool, cloudy but generally dry Wednesday afternoon on Court Philippe Chatrier.
“The last two years here Stan has played great tennis. He’s been at the top of the game for a number of years and is still improving,” Murray said. “He’s been a little bit inconsistent this year, but won a tournament last week and has been playing better with each match here. It will be very tough. He plays well on that court. I’ll have to play great tennis to beat him.”
Earlier on Chatrier, Djokovic, the world No1 and still favourite to win the title, moved into the quarters after finishing his held-over match against the No14 seed, Roberto Bautista Agut, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-5.
If, as expected, Djokovic beats Tomas Berdych on Thursday, then either Dominic Thiem or David Goffin on Friday, he will have played four best-of-five matches in four days, with only Saturday off, to reach the final.
“I remember early in my career I played a match against [the former world No4 Nicolas] Kiefer at Wimbledon for five days,” Djokovic said. “That was the longest I have played one match. This is probably the second longest. Same reason: raining.”
He added: “Once you accept the circumstances and the decision is that you play, then you have to go with it. It’s the same for you and your opponent. But it was a great mental test for all of us, yesterday the entire day. I’m, in a way, glad to have a match like this, because it’s a challenge that you need to overcome mentally.”
Murray said he was obviously aware of the logjam on the other side of the draw, although it was not at the forefront of his thoughts. “The weather has been challenging the last few days for everyone involved. But right now, players have to be selfish and look at their own matches and try their best to get through them. It’s been a tough few days for everyone, but especially the players in the top half.”
Murray identified the turning point against Gasquet at a set down and 1-3 in the tie-break. “I was creating a lot of chances and wasn’t taking them,” he admitted. “But that stretch of five or six points was huge from 3-1 in the tie-break. I served double fault, 2-1, and then my next two serves were aces. I remember at 3-2, he hit a drop shot backhand which hit the tape. I got a good contact on a return at three-all. Those points there changed the match.”
It was then that Murray took a little of the zest out of an overwhelmingly and predictably one-sided crowd, who had cheered their player on through some of his best tennis to that point, but now began to worry that he would collapse on his first visit to the quarter-finals of his home tournament.
“I have played in worse atmospheres,” Murray said. “For sure, the crowd were behind him, but it wasn’t too bad.”
He added: “I think I played some really good stuff today. I do think I played well. Obviously the match could have been maybe more comfortable had I done a bit better serving out the first two sets.”