When Andy Murray was dragged to five sets in the opening round of the French Open and then again in the second, it was hard to believe this would be the year when the Scot could end Britain’s 81-year wait for a men’s Roland Garros champion.
But by making some changes to his racket tension to adjust to conditions he described as “cold, wet and slow”, the world No.2 set up a blockbuster final with Novak Djokovic that leaves him one win away from hoisting the one trophy even he thought was once beyond him.
“To reach the finals of the French the first time, that’s a big moment for me,” said Murray, bidding to become only the second Briton to win the Musketeers’ Cup following Fred Perry’s triumph in 1935.
“Like I said a few years ago, I never really expected to be able to do that.”
Not many people expected it this year either when he was two sets down against Czech qualifier Radek Stepanek, and then two-sets-to-one down against 164th-ranked French wildcard Mathias Bourgue.
But having survived those scares, Murray went into full throttle mode to easily defuse the thunderbolt serves of Ivo Karlovic and John Isner before showing off his full array of tricks to subdue holder Stan Wawrinka in Friday’s semi-final.
Wawrinka usually fires his best artillery when he comes face to face with the Big Four – Murray, Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer – but on Friday he had the best view in the house as the Scot pulled out his A game.
Even the steady chants of “Waw-rin-ka, Waw-rin-ka” from the noisy crowd could not distract Murray or deny him a win that means he had now reached the title match at all four majors.
“It was one of the better matches that I have played on clay throughout my career. Proud I have managed to reach the final of all four,” said Murray, who has won two of his previous nine grand slam finals.
While reaching the title match at Roland Garros is a major milestone for a player who had never won a claycourt title before 2015, he is eager to ensure Sunday does not turn out to be a missed opportunity.
“Novak trying to win the career slam it’s obviously a huge match for him, and me trying to win my first French Open, as well,” said Murray.
“Neither of us know how many more chances we’ll have to win here.”