French Open SF preview and prediction: Murray vs. Wawrinka

Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka will be facing each other for the 18th time in their careers and for the second straight year in the French Open semifinals when they meet again on Friday.

Murray is leading the head-to-head series 10-7 after beating Wawrinka twice in 2016, including at Roland Garros via a 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 decision. The top-ranked Scot also cruised 6-4, 6-2 at the World Tour Finals en route to the title there and the year-end No. 1 ranking.

This season has been a considerably different story for Murray, but he remains comfortably atop the rankings thanks in part to Novak Djokovic’s slump. Although the three-time Grand Slam champion is a mediocre 21-7 in 2017, he is picking up the pace this fortnight. Murray booked a spot in the semis for the fifth time in his last six appearances with wins over Andrey Kuznetsov, Martin Klizan, Juan Martin Del Potro, Karen Khachanov, and Kei Nishikori.

“As you get through the matches, you gain in confidence,” the No. 1 seed explained after beating Nishikori. “I didn’t feel like I played great tennis today. It’s a huge step in the right direction for me. Anyone can win matches when they are playing well; it’s winning when you’re not playing your best (that) is more impressive. So I’m happy about that.”

“I think he’s struggling a little bit since the beginning of the year,” Wawrinka said of Murray, “but he’s in the semifinal. So a champion like him, when they find a way to win matches, he’s playing better and better. So I expect him to play his best tennis…. It’s going to be interesting match, for sure. Last year I was playing really well. I was confident. He was playing better than me I remember on that court. In the semifinal, he was really aggressive in his game. He was pushing me all the time, so (it) was tough for me to find any solution last year.

“But again, it’s a different year.”

Wawrinka has what Murray still lacks–a Coupe des Mousquetaires. The third-ranked Swiss triumphed at this tournament in 2015 and made a return trip to the semis last spring before falling to Murray. Wawrinka has not been at his absolute best in 2017, but he is heating up at just the right time. His nine-match winning streak includes a title in Geneva and victories this fortnight over Jozef Kovalik, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Fabio Fognini, Gael Monfils, and Marin Cilic. Like Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem on the other side of the draw, Wawrinka has not dropped a single set.

It is no surprise that Murray got away with rather pedestrian performances against Nishikori and in his first two matches. That will not cut it against Wawrinka, who always plays better in majors than he does at other events and is 17-1 in his last 18 matches at Roland Garros.

Pick: Wawrinka in 4

36 Comments on French Open SF preview and prediction: Murray vs. Wawrinka

  1. Great winner to finish it from Stan. He looked almost shot earlier in that match, but came back and somehow outlasted Muzz.

  2. What a BHDTL winner to finish the match!

    With this win, Stan (and Rafa) have pushed Djoko out of top three, for the first time since 2009!

    • I thought that Andy would win when he went up two sets to one. But this is a good result for him. He can move ahead to Wimbledon now. He took it to the limit and just ran out of steam.

  3. Personally, I pray that we get a God-Mode Stan vs. God-Mode Rafa in the final! Their would be a revenge factor for Rafa for AO 2014, as well as vindication factor for Stan knowing that he wasn’t playing a healthy Rafa in AO 2014. I honestly feel like they both deserve another shot at each other in a slam final. And where better than RG, where they both have their favorite surface? I really do hope we that final…

    • VR, as a big Rafa fan, would you have preferred that Rafa’s potential final opponent to be Stan or Andy? I meant to ask before the semis started, but I forgot.

        • Thiem will definitely be good practice for facing Stan! Their games are pretty similar. Both heavy hitters. Thiem actually hits his ground strokes a couple mph faster than Stan’s. On the flip side, Stan is obviously much more experienced in big slam finals and best-of-five battles. But just in terms of style of play, I think they are pretty similar, not only in their backhands. They showed who has the hardest forehands in the tournament so far, and Thiem has a considerably harder forehand than everyone else. Stan was high on the list, maybe even #2 if I recall correctly. Rafa was on there, too, maybe #4. One of the coolest things about it was that Ostapenko was really high in the list! I actually haven’t even seen her play yet, but I hear she hits harder than almost anyone on WTA…

    • They have to get the match started. The crowd has to leave and then the crowd for the second match has to get in.

  4. Obvious now why the French put Rafa on second match of the day and started first match at 12:45.

    Separate tickets so crowd has to clear out before second crowd comes in.

  5. I’d have preferred Murray because boorish French will be firmly behind CB in the final.

    That plus I really don’t like CB.

    • No the crowd is younger this time …I doubt it…it will be equal.

      Let us not forget that everyone wants to witness history.if rafa wins 10th it will be historical and people will want to witness it.

  6. Let us remember a stat. .Stan has won every gs final he has played till date but each of those wins were against seated incumbent world no 1. That won’t be the case this time. Neither Rafa or Thiem are world no 1.

    Btw atul said 4.5 hour match and it lasted exactly 4.5 hours 🙂

    • That’s a good point, Sanju. If Stan faces Rafa and wants to win this title, he is going to have to play like he did in 2015 final in terms of dictating and bullying. If he doesn’t, Rafa will be all over him… And I’ve personally always doubted that Stan could ever replicate that 2015 final performance ever again, so I will remain skeptical until I see him do it again.

  7. Thiem’s backhand technique is different. He uses his body so much and puts so much power on it a result. It is the biggest backhand when he cranks it (which he is TOTALLY doing it right now).

    Also, I notice his backhadn on the run is kind of unique for a single hander. He slides into his backhands really well and amazingly hits with more open stance which you normally see from single handed backhands

  8. Which is the right topic thread for this match? I am going back and forth.

    Rafa has a chance here. 0-40

  9. vamos! The way Thiem is playing, this is not sustainable. He needs to get a bit more patient and then unleash his shots. Good going, Rafa

    • Well, Murray doesn’t have the firepower of Rafa, so against Stan, Murray has to use all his court craft, his guile and defensive skills to do the job. Stan doesn’t have much strategy to offer either, just hits hard to blow his opponent off the court. Both Stan and Thiem are players who hit hard and it’s either hit or miss for them. Rafa had an easier time with Thiem as Rafa had the firepower to fight back, not relying solely on defensive skills, unlike Murray. In fact Rafa hit more winners than Thiem in the match.

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