Two of the most established players in the game, a big match player who has become a fixture at the latter stages of Grandslams over the past few years and a rising Next Gen superstar headline an intriguing Day 13 at the French Open Championships. Four supreme athletes will look to battle it out to knuckle down a spot in the Sunday’s showpiece final.
With only two victories separating these players from capturing, what most observers consider to be, the most difficult Grandslam in our sport, the stage is set for an excitment filled day with jaw dropping tennis and possibly some nervous moments in the French capital as the two quality semifinals unfold.
Stan Wawrinka vs Andy Murray
The battle of the two time grandslam champions will be a mouth-watering one with the Brit on a 10 match winning streak and the Swiss who hasn’t lost a match in his last 9. Something’s gotta give and with a major final at stake, both players will look to bring their respective A games to the court.
Murray leads the Head to Head 8-7 but , Wawrinka is the one who has held sway recently, by virtue of winning the pair’s last three meetings in straight sets quite comfortably.
As far as this year’s French Open statistics are concerned,the pair have fairly similar numbers with Murray hitting 52 aces to Wawrinka’s 45. Both have won 76% of their first serve points with Wawrinka edging ahead on second serve points won with 63%. Murray is the leader of the pack when we consider returning first serves, having won 144 points while doing so.
On the other hand, Wawrinka heads the tournament in winning second serve return points, with his tally at 112. As the numbers suggest, it is going to be an evenly fought out contest with Murray looking to make his first Roland Garros final while the defending Champion looks to make it two in a row in Paris.
Prediction: Murray will be looking to defend his second serves well and serve well, as he will be attempting to soak up the pace of the heavy Wawrinka groundstrokes. Andy will have to be wary of dropping too many balls short and letting the defending champion take control of the rallies and the game.
Wawrinka, on the other end, will want to dictate play from the back of the court with his powerful ground strokes and would hope to outhit and more importantly outlast Murray. The 2014 Australian Open champion while in good form, has not been battle tested and Murray who has some hard earned wins, will emerge the victor in 4 gruelling, tight sets and make his 2nd straight major final.
Dominic Thiem vs Novak Djokovic
The two players with the most wins on the ATP World Tour this season will go hammer and tongs on the red dirt of Paris to clinch a spot in Sunday’s Final. World No 1, Novak Djokovic will be on court for a fourth straight day, hoping to take care of business without any major blips as he did against Tomas Berdych the other day.
It wont be any easy out for him though, as he faces a young superstar and a new entrant into the World’s top 10-Dominic Thiem. With wins over the likes of Nadal and Federer on clay this season, coupled with a stellar and a consistent year, the Austrian has been making all the right noises this season. Heralded as a future Major Champion and a World No.1, Thiem would want to put up a great show in his first major semifinal against the current World No.1.
Djokovic is on the verge of securing his place in a 20thth Major final and continue his bid to capture the elusive French Open Crown. Novak will want to put pressure on the youngster from the outset , who is bound to be nervous, playing at this stage of a grandslam for the first time.
The pair had met this year in Miami with Djokovic taking the spoils in two tight sets, but given Thiem’s style of swinging for the fences at critical junctures of the game and his ability to hit through the slower conditions on clay, this is going to be anything but straightforward. This will be an interesting match consisting of contrasting game styles.
Prediction: Backhand Down the Line will be the most significant shot for Thiem as he will employ that to stretch out Djokovic on his slightly weaker forehand wing. Taking time away from Djokovic, mixing up his game and effectively shrinking the court could prove to be an effective pattern of play for the Austrian. As far as Novak is concerned, continuously pounding away at Thiem and getting balls back into play as he always does, shall do the trick for Djokovic.
Novak will win in four sets with Thiem taking the opener.
– Falak Shah [Falak Shah is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]