Former champion Stan Wawrinka outlasted Andy Murray to reach the French Open final on Friday, fighting back to win 6-7(8), 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-1 in an epic semifinal clash.
“I’m really happy to be in the final,” he said afterwards. “I think it was quite a tough match today. A big battle. I want to enjoy it a lot, because as I say, it’s not all the time you can say you’re going to play in a final of a Grand Slam, especially in Paris. I really want to enjoy that.”
Wawrinka, who hoisted the trophy in 2015, blasted 87 winners on Friday to out hit Murray from the baseline.
He coughed up a break advantage and the lead in the third set which allowed Murray to take the two-sets-to-one advantage, forcing Wawrinka to dig deep over the next two sets.
In the fourth set, neither player faced a break point on their own serve which led it into a tiebreaker. The Swiss would win the final three points of the breaker capped off by a thunderous forehand winner to force the semifinal into a deciding fifth set.
With momentum on his side of the net, Wawrinka broke Murray in his first three service games to build a commanding 5-0 lead.
Murray would break back to avoid the bagel, but Wawrinka closed the match out with one more break, wrapping things up with a patented backhand winner on match point.
“For sure, it wasn’t easy to be two sets to one down. 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 defense, play the right tennis in the right moment. That’s why he’s No. 1 in the world,” said Wawrinka of the four hour and 34 minute match. “When you enter in a Grand Slam against him, you have to accept that. You need to keep trying to focus on what you do. I think it was mentally a tough battle today, I’m really happy to find a way to win the match.”
Wawrinka will now need to summon that energy once again when he plays the greatest clay play ever in Sunday’s final: Rafael Nadal.
The nine-time champion from Spain did not need four and a half hours to advance in his semifinal on Friday, dominating Austria’s Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 in a clinical performance.
Nadal has now lost just 29 games in his two weeks at Roland Garros this year and Wawrinka knows what kind of test stands in front of him.
“I think to play Rafa on clay in the French Open in a final is probably the biggest challenge you can have in tennis. He’s the best player ever on clay. He’s going for his 10th Roland Garros [title], so it’s something really impressive, something tough,” Wawrinka said. “At the end of the day, it’s a final. The pressure is on both players. No one goes on the court thinking he has no pressure. We both want to win the title, and we both are going to give it all on the court.”