Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka will square off for the 18th time when they take to Court Philippe Chatrier for their second consecutive Roland Garros semi-final against each other on Friday.
Murray, a runner-up in Paris in 2016, has dropped three sets so far this fortnight (to Kuznetsova in R1, Klizan in R2, Nishikori in QF), while Wawrinka is yet to lose a set.
They’re both looking to reach the second Roland Garros of their respective careers.
"They are playing extremely well this season (Rafa, Thiem, Stan) and I came in playing garbage (smiling) " lol Andy :) (🎥Eurosport) pic.twitter.com/u4Ln9KsiGJ— Rena (@_irenka23_) June 7, 2017
“I came in, playing garbage.” (see video above)
“Obviously when we played last year, it was a similar situation coming in. I think Stan had played really well coming into the match. I had struggled in some of my matches during the event last year, but I played one of my best clay court matches that day to get the win. I need to do the same again tomorrow. He’s been playing very well. He’s not dropped a set here.
“Yeah, he’s obviously played extremely well the last few years at the French, and he’s confident. It’s going to be very tough. But I can learn some things from last year. I’m sure he will, as well, and will try to change some things. Should be an interesting match.”
“I don’t think we need extra motivation. When you arrive in the semi-final of a Grand Slam, the motivation is quite high. For me, for me doesn’t change that we played last year and that I lost against him. It’s a new match. It’s a new year. We can see everything is completely different from last year. The week before the tournaments we did some different results, so it’s going to be a great match. It’s always a great challenge to play the World No1 in a Grand Slam.”
“He defeated me last year. He was playing better. He was really playing well last year. I think it will be an interesting match. The conditions are a little different. I think he’s probably a bit less confident. He’s a bit more hesitant. Hopefully I can take advantage of that and find solutions to beat him.”
1 – Murray has won just one of his last eight meetings with top-five opposition at the Grand Slams.
1 – win and four losses for Murray against top-five opposition at Roland Garros. That one loss was against Wawrinka in last year’s semis.
2 – Murray is facing a top-five player this season for just the second time. His only top-five match so far in 2017 was a straight-sets loss to Novak Djokovic in the Doha final.
3 – of the four semi-finalists – Wawrinka, Thiem, Nadal – are yet to drop a set this fortnight. It’s the first time this has happened at a Grand Slam since the 1988 Australian Open, when Pat Cash, Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander achieved the feat. It’s the first time this has happened at Roland Garros in the Open Era.
3 – wins and two losses for Murray against Wawrinka in Grand Slams.
3 – Wawrinka is one of just three Swiss players to ever reach a Grand Slam final – alongside Roger Federer and Martina Hingis.
3 – wins and five losses for Wawrinka in Grand Slam semi-finals.
4 – Wawrinka is bidding to defeat a world No1 for the fourth time in his career.
4 – Wawrinka has reached the semi-finals at four of the last five Grand Slams. He is through to his ninth Grand Slam semi-final overall.
7 – Murray is looking to become just the 7th man in the Open Era to reach the finals at all four Grand Slam events on multiple occasions.
10 – Wawrinka is bidding to record his 10th straight win and record a new career-best Tour-level winning streak on clay. His current nine-match winning streak includes a title run in Geneva in the week leading up to the French Open.
12 – Murray is bidding to reach his 12th Grand Slam final.
29 – years and 105 days, the average age of the four men’s semi-finalists. It’s the second-highest at Roland Garros in the Open Era (behind 1968, when it was 33 years 224 days).
44 – years since someone as old as Wawrinka has reached the Roland Garros men’s final. At 32 years 75 days, Wawrinka could become the oldest French Open finalist since 33-year-old Niki Pilic finished runner-up here in 1973.
Gustavo Kuerten marked the 20th anniversary of his first Roland Garros triumph on Thursday by backing Rafael Nadal to win 15 French Open titles.
Brazilian star Kuerten won his first Paris crown in 1997, going on to win again in 2000 and 2001.
Nadal is just two match wins away from capturing an unprecedented 10th French Open.
“Rafa could potentially win up to 15 times,” Kuerten said Thursday in praise of the 31-year-old. “Two years ago, nobody really thought he would ever win a Grand Slam tournament again, especially Roland Garros. Well, I think he’s back, and he’s a favourite, as he was a favourite during his best years. So it is very possible, and I think we need to thank him, because he has been a role model.
“He’s not only an excellent tennis player. He is a wonderful person. He is entirely dedicated to his discipline.”
Nadal will face Austria’s Dominic Thiem in Friday’s semi-final. If he gets through that he would come up against world No1 Andy Murray or 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka in Sunday’s final.
Kuerten said Roger Federer’s surprise run to the Australian Open title in January at the age of 35 for an 18th major proved that age is not a factor in the sport. He also says Nadal and Federer have pushed each other to be better and better over the years.
“I think the chase, it’s amazing, right? Like the cat and rat, they are one after another,” said Kuerten. “That’s my belief. It’s because of them both they are so good.
“I always ask where he stops his spaceship around, like Roger. It’s nice you see these guys playing together. I’m sure that one make the other been much better than they normally will do without these kind of competition.”
But the Brazilian remains in awe of a potential 10th French Open crown for Nadal.
“Winning 10, it’s kind of – I can imagine that someone will win 22 Grand Slams or even 25, 26, 24 Grand Slams. But 10 of the same tournament? It’s more hard to understand for myself.
“At the same way, what’s make me more impressed, I don’t think right now that this is going to stop on 10. If he wins this year, you probably will guess that 11 is around the corner.”
Ana Ivanovic has no regrets over her decision to retire from tennis.
The former French Open champion announced her retirement on the eve of the 2017 season after struggling with injury problems for several years.
Five months on, the 29-year-old is enjoying life away from the tour and has no plans to return, either as a player or coach.
Ivanovic said: “Some people will say I stopped too late. I think everyone feels when it’s the right time for them. And it definitely wasn’t a decision overnight.
“There were so many factors that influenced that decision for me. It’s been now almost six months. I do not regret it. I am very happy where I’m at at the moment, and I’m still learning a lot. I want to improve. I want to share everything I have learned. I think it was the right time for me.
“I do miss it sometimes. It’s never easy. It’s been my whole life. But I really enjoy my time not having to have every day a schedule made for me and having a little bit more freedom. I have been busy. I do miss competition, but I get to travel a little bit on my own terms, which is a little bit different. And I get the chance to walk around, explore, and not have to save my energy for the match days.
“But I still watch a lot and keep in touch with some of my friends on tour.”
Ivanovic was back at the scene of her greatest triumph on Thursday as Roland Garros staged a small ceremony to honour their former champion.
The Serbian looked set for a show-stopping career when she lifted the trophy in Paris in 2008 and rose to world number one but she struggled to deal with the pressure and never hit such heights again.
Ivanovic said: “As I was preparing for today, I really was promising that I will not cry, and it was very hard to hold my tears back. It brought back a lot of emotions, actually. It was so wonderful.
“I do have very special bond with this place and Philippe Chatrier. And to walk on and see my family there, it was very hard but sweet at the same time.”
Ivanovic now lives in Chicago with her husband and Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger.
“It’s the first time for me that I kind of settle down somewhere,” she said. “I really like the city. People are super friendly. It’s lovely having the lake there. But the wind, that’s the only thing. It’s not the question if it’s windy or not, it’s a question if it’s sunny or not. The wind is always there. But it’s been really exciting times.”
She is a good friend of her fellow Serb, world No2 Novak Djokovic, and believes it’s only a matter of time before he returns to his very best. Djokovic suffered a hefty straight-sets defeat at the hands of 23-year-old Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals in Paris on Tuesday and will drop out of the top-two for the first time since 2011 when the new rankings are out on Monday.
“I really believe Novak will come back. I think it’s amazing what he’s done, being on top for so long. It’s not easy to maintain that level. It’s maybe a little bit more easier, men’s than women’s, but still I think it’s amazing,” said Ivanovic.
“And sometimes you just need a break. And also, the tour doesn’t really give you that time to sort of reflect and enjoy also the success. Sometimes it takes a little time, but I’m sure he’ll be back.”