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Murray eyeing final chapter after setting up clash against Wawrinka

By Paul Newman

If winning the biggest prizes came down to natural talent, there is every chance that Richard Gasquet's career would be as successful as Andy Murray's.

However, mental and physical strength can be just as crucial as any technical or tactical ability, as Murray showed once again in beating his French rival 5-7 7-6 6-0 6-2 to claim his place in the semi-finals of the French Open for the fourth time.

That is some record for a player who, in his early years, found clay his most challenging surface. In the Open era only seven players - Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander, Andre Agassi and Ivan Lendl - have made the last four at Roland Garros more times than Murray.

He has now reached 19 Grand Slam semi-finals, which among active players is bettered only by Federer, Djokovic and Nadal.

The Scot will face Stan Wawrinka in the last four tomorrow.

Murray has won eight of his 15 previous matches against Wawrinka, who continued his impressive run when he beat Spain's Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2 6-1 7-6.

The meeting between Murray and the defending champion will bring to an end one lengthy winning streak: Murray has won his last 10 matches, while Wawrinka has won his last nine.

"Stan has played great tennis here the last couple of years," Murray said. "It's going to be incredibly tough. We haven't played each other for a while. Hopefully I can play my best tennis and reach my first final here."

The World No.2's victory over Gasquet was his 16th successive win over a home player at a Grand Slam tournament and the eighth time he has performed that feat at Roland Garros. It was also his 16th triumph in a row against French opposition.

It was a match of two halves. For the best part of two sets Murray looked out of sorts and played without his usual aggression, resorting far too often to drop shots, which a grateful Gasquet regularly punished.

However, everything changed once Murray had won the tie-break at the end of the second. As the Scot upped the ante, Gasquet's spirits seemed to plummet. In closing out victory after three hours and 23 minutes, Murray won 12 of the last 14 games.

"Both of us had our chances in the first two sets and it was very important for me to win the second," Murray said. "It was a very tough match and I'm glad to have come through it."

The match began in a curiously subdued atmosphere just after 2.15pm. After the two World No.1s had preceded Murray and Gasquet on Court Philippe Chatrier - Serena Williams beat Elina Svitolina 6-1 6-1 and Djokovic beat Roberto Bautista Agut 3-6 6-4 6-1 7-5 - half the crowd seemed to decide that lunch was their biggest priority.

Djokovic finally booked his place in the quarter-finals by beating Bautista Agut in a match that had been scheduled to play on Monday before rain intervened and it sees him become the first player to pass $100m (about £69m) in prize money.

In the quarter-finals today Djokovic will face Tomas Berdych, who beat David Ferrer 6-3 7-5 6-3.

Djokovic or Berdych will then have to play their semi-final tomorrow, meaning they will have been on court four days in a row.

Belfast Telegraph


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