Scot What It Takes
Murray is now one of the best clay court players
Pushing Andy Murray as a viable selection to win the French Open is a smart move from our point of view. Murray fans, like any fans would, love to read about how their man can take the next step on the red stuff. Murray haters will read it to scoff at the ludicrous idea that he could overcome the master of clay Rafa Nadal or the undisputed world number one Novak Djokovic. As is the will of the great web
The Scot has made it to a quarter-final and three semi-finals in his last four appearances at Roland Garros. Having struggled to make an impact in the early part of his career he made the adjustments and put in the work needed to allow him to compete against the best clay court players. Now he is one of the best clay court players.
Last year he picked up the first two clay court titles of his career, winning in Munich and Madrid, and entered the French Open unbeaten on the surface. He may have failed to progress past the last four but he pushed Novak Djokovic close in a five set thriller. The effects on the Serbian were obvious in the final where he lost to Stan Wawrinka in four sets. Djokovic had won the previous five meetings on clay and currently holds a dominant 19-4 record against the world number four.
This season Murray has had an even better clay court season, improving from tournament to tournament. In Monte Carlo he made it to the last four where he lost to Nadal in three sets. He then failed to defend his Madrid Open title but he made it to the final, beating Nadal in straight-sets in the semi-finals, where he lost to Djokovic in three sets. He gained some immediate revenge over his biggest rival when he lifted the title in Rome with a straight sets win over the world number one.
Beating Djokovic may be the most significant of his clay court wins. Not only did it end a run of four straight defeats against the Serb it was also Murray’s first clay court win against him.
Djokovic has been to three of the last four French Open finals but he has yet to list the title. He didn’t react well to losing to Murray in the Rome final. As he complained about the weather Murray kept his cool and closed out a straight sets win. Too often has Murray first lost the psychological battle with Djokovic before capitulating on the scoreboards.
The top two in the seedings have faced each other 33 times with Djokovic holding a dominant advantage of 23-10. 16 of those meetings have been in finals where the record evens up significantly with Djokovic holding a narrow 9-7 lead. If they do meet at Roland Garros it will be in the final and Murray’s form coupled with the confidence of beating Djokovic in Rome could be enough to give him the necessary edge.
Murr’ Than Just One Hurdle
Were it not for his body struggling to stay in one piece there would be no question about who wins this, and probably the next five, French Open tournaments. Whilst Murray appears to have gotten on top of the niggling injuries which suffered regularly early in his career Nadal continues to struggle. His injuries, especially his knees, have been more severe than Murray’s and despite the two players being the same age the toll on Nadal’s body is becoming more obvious. You’d be a fool to discount a man who has won nine of the last eleven French Open titles but if he and Murray meet it will be in the semi-final thanks to Roger Federer’s withdrawal. A couple of hard weeks of five-set tennis could take a toll on a player who has failed to get past the third round in his last three Grand Slam events.
Looking at some of Murray’s more likely late round opponents he’s looking good to make a fourth French Open semi-final at least.
He holds a 12-2 career record over the 6th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. A tough and talented opponent but not one whose skill set is a major problem for an on-form Murray. The Frenchman, despite his talent, has only been to one Grand Slam final in his career. Whether it’s physical or mental he often succumbs to fatigue as we move in to the latter stages of Grand Slam tournaments.
8th Seed Milos Raonic has a respectable record against Murray, winning five of their eight meetings. However he has lost the last four in-a-row, two of which were on clay. Murray has also The Canadian has had some injury problems this year although he did make his first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open. Where he was beaten in five sets by Murray.
Next up on this side of the draw is 10th seed Marin Cilic, Murray is 10-2 up in career meetings, is 3-1 up in Grand Slam meetings and has won their only two meetings on clay. The red stuff is the Serbian’s worst surface and he’ll be doing well to make the second week.
The field of potential opponents continues to thin out with David Goffin given the 12th seed position. Murray is 4-0 up in career meetings without dropping a single set against the Belgian, including a comfortable win at the recent Rome Masters.
The world number two is in good form, doesn’t appear to have any injury problems and has a relatively clean run to the later stages of the competition. Nadal (twice), Djokovic and David Ferrer account for Murray’s last four exits at Roland Garros. Ferrer and Djokovic are on the opposite half of the draw and Nadal won’t come in to play until the semi-finals.
A shock defeat is always on the cards but Murray has been to semi-final stage in 14 of his last 20 Grand Slam events and only once in that run did he fail to make it to the last eight. He’s had an excellent two seasons on clay and when you look at his half of the draw his outright price starts to look like a value pick.