Andy Murray faces huge roadblock in Stanislas Wawrinka to reach first French Open final

Murray faces huge roadblock in Wawrinka to reach first French Open final

02/06/2016 at 12:20Updated 02/06/2016 at 14:02

Andy Murray hopes his passion for breaking new ground can drive him to a first French Open final, but he is up against a man who can strike fear into opponents due to his raw hitting power.

Less than a year away from his 30th birthday, different experiences are hard to find on the tennis tour but stepping out on Court Philippe Chatrier for the trophy match would be one thing Murray has never done before.

This will be his fourth appearance in the semi-finals but Rafael Nadal, twice, and Novak Djokovic over five sets last year prevented him going further.

Murray has reached nine Grand Slam finals; five at the Australian Open and two each at Wimbledon and the US Open.

He said: "This stage of my career, to do things that I have never done before is nice. That's one of the things that motivates me and drives me. That's why my results on clay over the last couple of years have been really special to me because I never expected that really.

"So if I was able to make the final here it would be big for me. But I'm here to try and win the tournament, not make the final. That's my goal for the next few days."

The man standing in his way this time is defending champion Stan Wawrinka, who won his 12th match in a row at Roland Garros with a straight-sets victory over Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the quarter-finals.

At the same time, Murray was battling his way past Richard Gasquet in four sets having dug himself out of a hole at a set and 3-1 down in the second-set tie-break.

But, while the Scot had history on his side against Gasquet, that is not so much the case against Wawrinka, and not just because of the third seed's achievements here.

Stan Wawrinka celebrates

Stan Wawrinka celebratesReuters

But the last of those was three years ago, before Murray's transformation into one of the best clay-courters in the world.

Victories over Nadal and Djokovic should inspire plenty of confidence but this will be a true test against a player who possesses immense power and is perfectly at home on the red stuff.

"Obviously the last two years here he has played great tennis," said Murray of Wawrinka.

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"He's been at the top of the game now for a number of years and is still improving. He's been a little bit inconsistent this year, but he won the tournament last week (in Geneva) and has been playing better with each match here.

"It will be obviously very tough. He plays well on that court, so I'll have to play great tennis to beat him."

Wawrinka has won as many Grand Slam titles as Murray but has always resisted suggestions he is now at the same level as any of the 'big four'.

"I think he is well ahead of me," said the 31-year-old. "Now that I've won a second Grand Slam people say I'm closer to him because I have won two and he's won two as well.

"But if you were to compare our two careers, he's well ahead of me given all the titles, the finals, number two in the world, and he has so many Masters 1000 (titles), as well.

"Therefore, as I keep on repeating, he's in the big four. There is a reason for this. Maybe he has fewer titles than the other big three, but he's always been with them during the semis, the finals. His career is very, very impressive."

Wawrinka's form prior to the tournament did not necessarily indicate he would be a challenger for the title again.

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Wawrinka has not beaten another top-10 player yet in 2016 but he is clearly in the mood to change that on Friday.

He said of last year's title: "I think it gives me more confidence, for sure, and less pressure, because I won it. So I have a different mentality this year. I'm feeling way better.

"(The quarter-final) was a really good match. I played some really good tennis. I was really focused out there. I am moving well.

"I'm really happy with what I'm doing so far and being in the semi-final again, it's something really good for me."

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What are Andy Murray's prospects of victory?

Wawrinka won the Geneva Open coming into the event, and has continued to impress over the past few weeks. He dropped two sets in the opening round against Lukas Rosol, but has prospered so far in defending his trophy, dropping only one more set to Victor Troicki on his march to the last four. The defending champion provides a real examination of Murray's credentials on clay.

While Wawrinka is not Switzerland's most famous tennis son, he is certainly their most unpredictable. At least with Roger Federer, you know what level of excellence to expect. Stan the man can either be wretched or unplayable as Djokovic - chasing a career Grand Slam - will testify having been blown off the court in the final by a man load with baseline bullets who looked like he was dressed for a day at the beach.

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"The good thing is I know I can win big tournaments," he comments. "I know I can beat the top guys and hopefully I can do it again a few times this year.” Stan speaks the truth, and always threaten to bludgeon his opponents in submission.

Our prediction

Both men have two career Grand Slams despite Wawrinka's claims that Murray is in a different class. Murray would be wise to avoid such misleading sentiments. Looks a very tight contest, and will only become tighter if Wawrinka begins to swing at balls with some success. Yet Murray was in a tricky situation against Richard Gasquet on Wednesday when he was a set and 3-1 behind in the second set tie-breaker, but his maturity was rewarded with a convincing win in four. Expect Murray to again prevail in four sets.