Dominant semi-final win pits Andy Murray against Novak Djokovic in French Open finale
Published 03/06/2016 | 17:15
Andy Murray produced one of his best grand slam performances to defeat defending champion Stan Wawrinka and become the first British man to reach the French Open final for 79 years.
Wawrinka was on a 12-match winning streak at Roland Garros, having overpowered Novak Djokovic in the final 12 months ago, but he had no answer to the brilliance of Murray.
Murray dominated the opening two sets, then weathered a Wawrinka fightback to win 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-2 in two hours and 35 minutes.
The world number two will now attempt to emulate Wawrinka's achievement from last year when he takes on Djokovic on Sunday.
Having followed in the footsteps of Britain's 1937 runner-up Bunny Austin by winning his first French Open semi-final at the fourth attempt, Murray will hope to once again succeed Fred Perry, the last British man to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires in 1935.
The 29-year-old raised a fist aloft after hitting the match-winning volley, and said with his voice cracking: "I knew if I was going to win, I was going to have to play one of my best clay-court matches.
"Stan has been unbelievable the last two years. I've played one of my best matches today and I'm looking forward to the final.
"I'm extremely proud. I never expected to reach the final here. I'd always struggled on the clay. I hope I can put on a good match for all of the crowd on Sunday."
Murray may have been the higher seed but it was tough to make a case for him being the favourite.
Not only was Wawrinka the defending champion, he had also beaten Murray in their last three matches and had never lost a set against him on clay.
Murray, meanwhile, had lost all six of his slam matches against top-four opponents since beating Djokovic to win Wimbledon in 2013.
The heavy conditions this week also appeared to favour the burly Swiss' greater weight of shot, although there was no doubt the court had speeded up despite temperatures more reminiscent of Dunblane than Paris.
Murray knew he could not afford the same ups and downs that made his matches against Radek Stepanek, Mathias Bourgue and Richard Gasquet here so dramatic.
He started at a high level, and he needed to, because Wawrinka's shots seemed to have a magnet for the baseline.
Murray saved a break point in a long second game, and he capitalised immediately by breaking the Wawrinka serve.
The defending champion was impatient to hit winners rather than allow himself to get tangled up in Murray's web of drop shots, lobs and slices, but he was giving away too many free points.
Murray had twice failed to serve out sets against Gasquet on Wednesday so the nerves must have been jangling when Wawrinka forced break point at 5-4, and even more so when umpire Carlos Ramos gave Murray a rare time violation.
But the Scot produced a brilliant serve and followed it with a huge cry of "Let's go".
Twice more Wawrinka had chances to make it 5-5 but both times Murray came up with pinpoint serves and, when his opportunity arrived, he grabbed it.
It was the first time Murray had ever been a set in front in a French Open semi-final, and he is a great front-runner.
Not since the Australian Open final in 2013 had he lost a grand slam match having won the first set, and he quickly set about ensuring there would not be a repeat.
Murray's timing has been more off than on this tournament but he was striking his backhand superbly and not allowing Wawrinka to find any rhythm.
From 1-0 behind in the second set, Murray won five straight games, and this time there were no alarms as he soon served it out.
Eric Cantona and Leonardo DiCaprio were among the chilly fans watching on, and it was clear the majority wanted the close match they had been expecting.
Wawrinka managed to hang with Murray in set three and he whipped the crowd up as Murray came out to serve at 5-4 down.
There appeared little danger at 40-15 but for the first time Murray appeared tight and a huge roar greeted a netted backhand that gave Wawrinka four points in a row and a foothold in the match.
They were dangerous moments, for Wawrinka on a roll is one of the hardest players to stop, but Murray pounced right at the start of the third set and never looked like letting his advantage slip.