Andy Murray admits he will have to draw on all his clay-court experience if he is to pull off the shock of the tournament and beat Novak Djokovic in the French Open semi-final.
Djokovic dismantled nine-time champion Rafael Nadal in straight sets on Wednesday, inflicting only the Spaniard’s second defeat in 72 matches at Roland Garros.
The victory was not unexpected given the players’ respective form this year but its manner and margin represented an ominous statement of intent from Djokovic, who has beaten Murray in all of their last seven meetings.
Murray, however, is breaking new ground too, having won maiden clay-court titles in both Munich and Madrid this year and the 28-year-old believes he has matured his game to compete with the top players.
“Clay is a surface for me where I think, in general, experience helps on this surface,” Murray said.
“A lot of players who maybe didn’t grow up on it tend to have better years the more time they spend on the surface.
“I feel I understand how I have to play on the surface better than I did in the past, I’m playing much better than a couple of years ago.”
Djokovic’s win over Nadal was his 27th in a row but the Serb is desperate to complete a career grand slam in Roland Garros and insists the job is far from complete. “It’s the semi-finals of a grand slam, playing one of the biggest rivals and a guy I have known for a long time.”
In the other men’s semi-final, France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga takes on Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka.
In the women’s tournament, Serena Williams overcame illness to beat Timea Bacsinszky 4-6 6-3 6-0 and secure her place in the final. “I thought I had lost but I found some energy and I won,” Williams said. “I hope I get better for Saturday. I feel ill.”
The world number one will now play Czech Lucie Safarova in the final as she bids to win her third title at Roland Garros and 20th overall. Safarova enjoyed a surprise victory over Ana Ivanovic 7-5, 7-5.