Tennis: Andy Murray ‘proud’, despite losing in French Open

Andy Murray was proud of his French Open efforts after falling just short against Stan Wawrinka in a brutal semi-final battle.

Murray ended Wawrinka’s reign as champion in the semi-finals 12 months ago, but could not engineer a repeat, as the Swiss triumphed 6-7 (6/8) 6-3 5-7 7-6 (7/3) 6-1 after four hours and 34 minutes.

It was a rollercoaster of a match, with Murray second best for most of the first three sets, but somehow emerging two sets to one in front.

He then looked in control of the fourth, but it was Wawrinka who dominated the tie-break and, by the decider, Murray had nothing left.

Wawrinka, who has won his previous three grand slams finals, will face Rafael Nadal tomorrow.

Having arrived in Paris with only four wins since February and unsure even whether he would survive one match, Murray could not be too unhappy with his loss.

He said: “I’m proud of the tournament I had. I did well considering. I was one tie-break away from getting to the final, when I came in really struggling. So I have to be proud of that.

“Maybe the lack of matches hurt me a little bit in the end today. That was a very high-intensity match. A lot of long points. When you haven’t been playing loads, four-and-a-half hours, that can catch up to you a little bit. So I only have myself to blame for that, for the way I played coming into the tournament. But I turned my form around really, really well and ended up having a good tournament, all things considered.”

Murray

was unable to take the match to his opponent in the same way as last year and for most of the contest it was attack against defence.

But what attack and what defence. Wawrinka smashed 87 winners, mostly off his forehand to start with before the backhand joined the party in the second set.

The 32-year-old is now the oldest French Open men’s finalist since Niki Pilic in 1973.

Wawrinka was very happy with the way he stayed mentally in the match and felt Murray was not the same opponent he faced 12 months ago.

“For sure it wasn’t easy to be two sets to one down,” he said. “When you play a player like Andy Murray, you know that you can dominate the games, but he’s still going to be there. He’s still going to do incredible defence, play the right tennis in the right moment. That’s why he’s number one in the world.

“I was trying to focus on my game. I knew I had some good chances in the first set, in the third set also. I’m really happy to find a way how to win the match.”

Nadal is one win away from an unprecedented 10th title at the French Open after dominating his semi-final against Dominic Thiem.

Thiem went into the match fresh from his stunning upset of defending champion Novak Djokovic and looking for a second successive win against Nadal, but Philippe Chatrier is the Spaniard’s stage and Thiem found Nadal a very different opponent to the one he met at the Italian Open in Rome last month.

Nadal was simply far too good and heads into tomorrow’s final against Wawrinka having not dropped a set in the tournament after a 6-3 6-4 6-0 victory.

In today’s women’s singles final,

Simona Halep refused to believe her French Open dreams were over before they had begun and now stands one win away from her first grand slam title.

The Romanian, who will face Jelena Ostapenko on today, was installed as the favourite after retaining her title at the Madrid Open last month and went on to reach another final at the Italian Open the following week.

But during that match against Elina Svitolina, Halep went over on her right ankle, and when a scan showed a torn ligament, her chances of even being in Paris were rated only 50/50.

Not by Halep, though.

“I was scared, because they told me that it [the ligament] is broken,” she said. “I had no idea what does it mean, but I refused to accept that I cannot play, so I think I recovered faster mentally because of the positive thinking, and I really wanted to be here. So it didn’t matter what the scan showed.”

Ostapenko, ranked 47, has been the outsider who has seized her chance in a wide open field, blasting her way to wins against Sam Stosur, Caroline Wozniacki and Timea Bacsinszky. The young Latvian has been fearless, striking 245 winners — more than any other player, man or woman — and hitting her forehand three miles per hour harder than Andy Murray.

Ostapenko combined tennis with ballroom dancing until the age of 12 and still dances four times a week when at home.

“Now I’m doing for myself,” she said. “But I think it really helps my footwork because you need to be very co-ordinated and those small steps are helping,” said Ostapenko, the first Latvian player ever to reach a grand slam final. Her success is big news in the Baltic nation, with the country’s president Raimonds Vejonis offering his congratulations.

“He actually called my mum,” she said. “Nobody knows my phone. But it was really nice, because the president called.”


Lifestyle

Want to be cultured this Christmas? From TV to podcasts to books, Ed Power has the definite list of everything you missed this year - so you can curl up on the couch and catch upThe definite list of everything you missed this year

Artist Ciara Rodgers teaches older people how to rediscover their creativity and regain confidence, says Rowena WalshBrush with art: Discovering your creative side in later life

Furniture, paintings, jewellery and silver are on offer at James Adam in Dublin, writes Des O’SullivanAll set for home run: See what's on offer at the James Adam sale in Dublin

It’s not too late to hunt out a unique gift. Des O’Sullivan previews sales in the lead-up to the festive seasonA flurry of auctions in Munster sets the scene for Christmas

More From The Irish Examiner