Murray faces familiar foe in first French final

PARIS • Stan Wawrinka does not think Andy Murray can beat Novak Djokovic to win the French Open today. But Andy Murray does.

More than once in the past fortnight, Murray has reminded anyone asking that, although he might be the first British player to reach the men's final at Roland Garros in 79 years, that does not define the limits of his ambition.

He is in Paris only to win - and what he did to Wawrinka, the defending champion, on Friday suggests he is as well prepared as he has ever been to eclipse Fred Perry, the only man from Britain to win the French Open, in 1935.

Murray disposed of the world No. 4 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 with probably his best performance on clay - and there have been a few of them lately, including a straight-sets win over Djokovic in the final of the Italian Open three weekends ago.

Does the Scot regard his form and the weight of history as a distraction or comfort?

  • Last man to beat a Briton in final was killed six years later

  • The last time a British man made it to the final of the French Open, his winning opponent died less than six years later, fighting for the Nazis in World War II.

    Bunny Austin was defeated 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 in the 1937 final by Henner Henkel in what was the German's only Grand Slam singles triumph.

    Henkel kept playing until the summer of 1942, when he was called up to the German army. He was shot in the leg in the battle of Stalingrad and died of his injuries on Jan 13, 1943, near Voronezh in western Russia, at the age of 27.

    Since 1963, a commemorative tournament has been played in Erfurt, Germany, every year.

    A Briton last won the French Open in 1935, when Fred Perry beat another German, Gottfried von Cramm, in the final.


"I use it as motivation, if anything," Murray said, "but I didn't necessarily expect to be here a few years ago, so I've got to try and enjoy it. I'm proud I have managed to reach the final of all four (Grand Slams)".

This will be his 10th Grand Slam final, with a return of two titles, but he has played only Roger Federer or Djokovic in all 10.

That is some mountain to climb after a fortnight's slog and few have been as arduous as in Paris. The pressure on Murray is the equivalent of the bulging river Seine pushing on the Parisian banks.

Djokovic hit such heights of excellence in dismantling the precocious 22-year-old Dominic Thiem in Friday's other semi-final.

But, as Murray pointed out, they have their own challenges now.

"Novak is trying to win the career Slam, so it's a huge match for him, and I'm trying to win my first French Open as well. Neither of us knows how many more chances we'll have to win here.

"It took Roger (Federer) a long time (11 visits to Paris) to win this one. It's a very tough event to win. There is a lot riding on the match for both of us."

The French Open is the title Djokovic, winner of 11 Grand Slams, craves like no other. He needs it to complete his full set of Grand Slams after losing three previous finals.



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 05, 2016, with the headline 'Murray faces familiar foe in first French final'. Print Edition | Subscribe