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It may have been far from pretty, and it may have hinged on Andy Murray getting angry early in the second set, but the world number one has made his way to his fourth consecutive semfinal at Roland Garros, defeating Kei Nishikori in four sets. Andy enters the semifinal as the only man to have dropped sets on the way to the last four - dropping sets in the first two matches and then his quarterfinal. Dropping sets didn't stop him putting on his best performance against an in-form top player in 2016 against Stan Wawrinka in the semifinal at Roland Garros. Indeed, aside from two additional sets dropped in the first and second rounds last year, Andy's path through the Roland Garros draw in 2017 has been similar - sets dropped at the start of the tournament, then straight-sets wins over two big hitting players in the third and fourth, before a messy quarterfinal win in four sets.
Nishikori started extremely well, playing fast and explosive tennis from the baseline, attacking the ball with gusto to surge to a 6-2 lead. Then at 1-1, and deuce on Andy's serve in the second set, umpire Carlos Ramos gave the top seed his second time warning of the match and docked him a first serve. That moment ignited Andy's fire and he stormed through the second set like a wrecking ball. We've seen this before from the world number one, he'll come out a bit flat and get dominated by his opponent before something gets him angry and he turns the tables. The now infamous 'everyone hates you' incident against Rosol at Munich in 2015 comes to mind.
'Stan the Man' is on a nine match win streak coming into this semifinal, having won the title in Geneva the week before the French Open began. Here and in Geneva the Swiss number one has played a variety of players - from big hitters like Marin Cilic and Sam Querrey, to serve-and-volleyers like Mischa Zverev, to the mercurial talents of Fabio Fognini and Alexander Dolgopolov. He is arguably in better form here than he was in 2016, when he too slugged it out in a five-set battle in the first round and four tight sets in the fourth round.
In the accumulative event statistics, Stan has his 30 aces to Andy's 24, and 11 aces compares to 16. Stan has won a strong 64% of his second serve points, while Andy has notched up a respectable 58% against some poor returners. Of the players still in the tournament Andy leads on second serve return points won with 125 second serve return points won, Stan trails that by 20 points. For Andy though it is his first serve return points won which are lower than expected - with 109 he's a long way behind tournament leader Dominic Thiem who has 141 first serve return points won. When it comes to break point conversion - a key stat for Andy facing Stan since 2013 - the Swiss man leads with 26/48 or 54% to the Scot's 33/62 or 53%. One promising sign is that Andy's name does not feature on the top twenty longest rallies of the tournament. This hopefully means he is finishing points more quickly. Stan played the third longest rally of the tournament - 31 shots against Gael Monfils - and came out the victor.
The head-to-head between the two is close, with Andy leading 10-7, with Stan leading the head-to-head on clay 3-1, though most of their matches on the surface happened prior to Andy making improvements on the surface. In best-of-five sets matches they are locked at 3-3. Only once has Andy beaten Stan in a best-of-five match in straight sets, at the US Open in 2008. At Wimbledon in 2009 and Roland Garros last year it took five and four sets respectively to dispatch him. Stan's two slam wins over Andy came at the US Open, in 2010 and then 2013 when Andy was defending champion, but close to being crippled with back pain.
Andy won his quarterfinal despite not playing well. During his post-match press conference he described his tennis coming into this slam as 'garbage'. Nonetheless, he says he feels fresh and ready to fight for a place in the final again.
The match will be played on Friday 9th June, it will be the first men's singles semifinal on court Philippe Chatrier, at 12.45pm local time, 11.45am BST, and 5.45am CDT. The weather is forecast to be dry, with sunny and cloud, temperatures of around 20 degrees Celsius, a westerly wind of 9-10mph, and humidity of 61% dropping to 48% mid-afternoon.
With thanks to Bev for another great head-to-head image.
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