The outcome of men’s semifinal matches was somewhat expected but the one between Wawrinka and Murray lived up to its billing while the other was a damp squib.
Wawrinka v/s Murray
Wawrinka came into his semifinal with a 10-7 H2H in favor of Murray. However, what mattered more was his last tournament win about two weeks ago and the slow but steady built up of form en route to this semi final encounter.
Wawrinka hit 87 winners to Murray’s 36, he ran Murray ragged and made him scramble from one corner to another about 10 feet or more behind the baseline, and hit right through him with astounding pace and torque for most part of the match and yet by the middle of the fourth set his defeat seemed imminent. And, surprisingly enough my only memories of the match are of Murray running from one corner of the court to the other to keep balls in play while Stan controlling and dictating play from the center of the court for most part of most rallies only to fudge easy mid-court balls into the net or out on the base line.
Take for example the first set where both players had somewhat similar stats for first serve percentages and wins, break points and conversions of break points, and even second serve winning percentages. However Murray won 46 total points with only 10 unforced errors and 9 winners as compared to 43 total points won by Stan with 23 errors and 22 winners! Numbers don’t lie, and these stats clearly indicate that exactly 50% of the total points won by Murray were gifts from Stan to him, whereas Stan won more than 50% of his as outright winners!
The second set was no different with both players showing similar stats for first serve percentages but Stan came up with relatively higher first and second serve winning percentages and put Andy’s second serve under a lot of pressure which in turn kept Andy’s second serve winning percentage at just 38%. However, the major factor in this set again was Stan’s 18 winners and 15 unforced errors to Andy’s 5 winners 6 unforced errors. Again 60% or 15 of Murray’s 25 total points won were a gift for his semi-final appearance from Stan, whereas more than 50% of 35 total points earned by Stan were pure winners!
The script in the third set was somewhat similar with a slight twist which, due to Murray’s better returning, lead to a perceptible drop in the first serve winning percentage of Stan. In this set too, 46% of the total points won by Murray were unforced errors from Wawrinka’s racket.
The fourth set was perhaps the best in quality of play and intensity. Murray truly elevated the level of his play and his winners count reached into double digits, to 11, for the first time in a set while he continued to maintain his low unforced errors count. Wawrinka on the other hand slowly found his length, range and rhythm which helped him cut his unforced errors count and by the start of the tie break in the fourth he was in full flow. This was indeed a well fought set where neither players got a break-point chance and Murray probably put in the extra effort to close the set out because someone with as high a tennis IQ as Murray’s would have known that Stan was darn close to getting that dreaded feel for the ball. Murray won 35 total points in this set and had 11 winners and 6 unforced errors as compared to Wawrinka winning 39 total points with 18 winners and 13 unforced errors! Once again 46% of the points won by Wawrinka were winners by him, and this time around he gifted only 13 points out of the total 35 won by Murray.
The fourth set was truly the turn around set for Wawrinka as it allowed him to get the feel and rhythm and the fifth set thereafter was merely a formality to be completed. Stan was in full flow in the fifth set, he won 27 total points to Murray’s 13, and had only 7 unforced with 15 winners! Murray had 3 winners while maintaining his low unforced errors count to only 3 this time around. Once again 56% of the total points won by Stan in the fifth set were outright winners from his racket!
In the end Stan finished with 6 aces to Andy’s 1, converted 9 of 14 break points to Andy’s 5 of 12, committed 77 unforced errors to Andy’s 36, and hit 87 winners to Andy’s 36. Stan basically gifted to Andy about 48% of the 160 total points won by Andy, and on his part hit 49% of the 179 total points, that he won, as winners! How was this match even close when considering performance and dominance in a match?
This was one of those typical clay court matches where the dominant and better player could have easily lost to the one being given the run around. That perhaps is both, the beauty and weakness of clay. Generally, the score belies how close a match actually has been, in this case however the match was nowhere close to what the score so daringly suggests and yet the outcome could have easily been the opposite!
Wawrinka v/s Nadal
Nadal leads their H2H 15-3, and he had an exceptionally easy semifinal with Thiem folding and packing it in for the day somewhere in the middle of the 2nd set. Nadal is all charged up to win his 10th French Open and will stop at nothing. He has not lost a set en route to the finals whereas Wawrinka went through a five set dog fight in his semifinal against Murray. Wawrinka has no chance in hell against Nadal if he continues to make the high number of unforced errors that he made against Murray. If Wawrinka is serious about winning his 2nd French Open then he’ll need to push Nadal way behind the base line with the heaviness of his shots, come to the net more, and cut down on his unforced errors, but that is a tall task against Nadal. Nadal on the other hand just has to be Nadal on clay, and continue to play the way he has been playing ever since the start of the clay season. The deck is stacked against Wawrinka but he has the game to turn the tables and eke out a win. We all know what a giant slayer Wawrinka has been in slam-finals, but will that be enough to stop Nadal from winning his tenth French Open crown?
Conclusion: Nadal in 4