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The final four raring to go

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Originally published on 09/06/17 00:00

Murray (GBR) [1] v Wawrinka (SUI) [4]

The Murray-Wawrinka rivalry has spanned 12 years and 17 matches. The world No.1 leads the head to head count 10-7 and he won their only previous meeting at Roland Garros last year.

The Swiss defeated Novak Djokovic in the 2015 final after a quite brilliant display, and Murray’s best result came 12 months ago when he reached the final.

Keys to the match

Murray has tended to be a slow starter throughout his career and he was sluggish in the opening sets of his matches with Andrey Kuznetsov, Martin Klizan and Kei Nishikori.

In his clash with Wawrinka in the French capital last year, Murray was pinned back behind the baseline in the early stages by the Swiss, however, he was able to withstand the pressure. Not falling behind early gave him a platform to build on, and he will need to be alert from the first ball.

Wawrinka is a good lateral mover but he can be cumbersome and heavy-handed when moving forward. Murray used the dropshot to great effect in their semi-final last year, and it will likely be used frequently again.

Against a shotmaker like Wawrinka, who carries almost equal power in both wings, it’s important that Murray doesn’t become too passive. There will be periods in the match where the world No.1 will have to suffer and watch the ball fizz past him, but he will need to be proactive when he has the opportunity.

Wawrinka has reached the last four without dropping a set and he is on a nine-match winning run. His famous backhand was purring against Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals and he is oozing confidence.

With temperatures expected to soar in Paris today, the former champion will look to take advantage of the quicker conditions. The 32 year-old will expect to be the aggressor, and he will target the Brit’s weaker wing, his forehand.

Wawrinka has a tendency to just block or chip returns back into play, however he may look to take advantage of Murray’s vulnerable second serve. The Brit won just 43% of points behind his second delivery against Nishikori.

Prediction: Wawrinka in four

 

 

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [4] v Dominic Thiem (AUT) [6]

After three enthralling tussles during the European clay-court season, it’s only fitting that Nadal and Thiem will do battle at Roland Garros. The pair have met six times before, but only on clay, and Nadal leads the head to head count 4-2.

The two players are most at ease when grinding on the red dirt and Thiem will be hopeful of ending Nadal’s chase for ‘La Decima’ – an unprecedented tenth French Open crown. In each of the three meetings in the last few months, Thiem has improved with every match. He was thrashed in Barcelona, competitive in Madrid and victorious in Rome.

Keys to the match

Nadal, who has dropped a miserly 22 games en route to the semi-finals, has been playing with a swagger again this year. He looks ready to add another major title to his haul and his wicked forehand has been a key factor in his recent upturn in fortunes.

The Spaniard has used his forehand down the line regularly throughout the clay-court season and it remains one of the most potent shots in the game. Against the Austrian, it’s important that Nadal maintains his aggressive mindset and shows a willingness to pull the trigger on his signature shot.

A key reason why Thiem was able to beat Nadal in Rome was due to his willingness to adopt a more advanced court position. He hugged the baseline for the majority of the contest and took precious time away from the 'King of Clay' with his punishing groundstrokes. A similar approach is needed again on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Prediction: Nadal in four

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