Paris - Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal can edge closer to an
intriguing French Open final rich in landmark moments on Friday after
drastically contrasting campaigns in Paris.
World number one Murray was the first British man in the
Roland Garros final since Bunny Austin in 1937 when he finished runner-up to
Novak Djokovic last year.
Two more victories, however, starting with his semi-final
against 2015 winner Stan Wawrinka, would make him the first Briton to lift the
men's trophy since Fred Perry 82 years ago.
Nadal, who tackles Dominic Thiem, the conqueror of defending
champion Djokovic, is bidding to become the first man to capture the same major
on 10 occasions.
Murray arrived in France suffering from a fever, the latest
woe in a season which has seen him endure an elbow injury, flu and shingles.
"I came in playing garbage," admitted the
30-year-old of a Masters clay-court swing which saw him exit in the third round
in Monte Carlo and Madrid and lose his opener in Rome.
"If someone had offered me a semi-final spot before the
tournament, I would have signed up for that."
His form in Paris has sent out mixed messages.
He needed four sets to get past Andrey Kuznetsov and Martin
Klizan in the first two rounds.
Then, in what was expected to be a third-round ambush, he
sailed past Juan Martin del Potro in straight sets and was similarly at ease
against Karen Khachanov in the last 16.
However, in the quarter-finals, he dropped the first set
against Kei Nishikori before his greater stamina proved decisive.
Nadal, meanwhile, is the hot favourite to collect an
unprecedented 10th French Open and 15th career major.
The 31-year-old Spaniard, like Wawrinka and Thiem, hasn't
dropped a set at the tournament.
He should also be the fresher having spent just under eight
hours on court through five rounds.
Murray has needed the best part of 14 hours playing time
while Wawrinka has been in action for almost 11 hours and Thiem just under 10.
Nadal has dropped just 22 games so far, a figure aided by
compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta retiring through injury in the second set of
Bjorn Borg surrendered just 32 games on his way to the 1978
title, but Nadal insisted he has no interest in such records.
"I don't know how many games I lost this year, but I
really don't care about this. I only care that I am in the semi-finals,"
"My only goal is try to be ready to play my best. The
rest of these things, we can always find behind the stones."
Wawrinka, like Murray a three-time major winner, has made
his trademark understated progress to a third successive Roland Garros semi-final.
The Swiss third seed, at 32, is the oldest man to get to the
last four since Jimmy Connors back in 1985.
He trails Murray in head-to-head meetings 10-7 and lost to
the Briton in four sets in the semi-finals last year.
Wawrinka has lost 54 games - identical to the figure at the
same stage in 2015 when he became champion.
"In the semi-final last year, Andy was really
aggressive," said Wawrinka.
"He was pushing me all the time, so it was tough for me
to find any solution."
Wawrinka, Nadal and Murray in the semi-finals means it's
only the third time that three men over 30 have got to this stage.
It happened at Roland Garros in 1968 and at this year's
However, Thiem won't mind being the odd man out.
The 23-year-old Austrian condemned Djokovic to a first
straight-sets loss at a major in four years in his stunning quarter-final
triumph, avenging his defeat to the Serb in the 2016 semi-finals.
He is the only man this year to have defeated Nadal on clay
with his last-eight win in Rome offsetting losses in the final in Barcelona and
"It's going to be the toughest match you can
imagine," admitted sixth seed Thiem, who trails Nadal 4-2 on head to head.