The draw was never going to be easy for Andy Murray, even to match his two previous best performances at Roland Garros in reaching the semi-finals. And it is not as though Murray has even coasted through the tournament, like Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer, comparatively speaking. Neither have dropped a set, with Djokovic’s only worry being a slight thigh/leg tweak.
Instead Murray has dropped two sets including facing up to the challenge of France’s Jeremy Chardy, at a time when perhaps he would have wanted to conserve his energy for the veritable grind-fest which is coming up.
Ferrer does what he does best, slipping the draw almost unnoticed while all the focus swirls around everyone else, but he has not had as easy a path through the draw either, being push to five sets by Simon Bolelli who went 2-1 up against the Spaniard before he fought back quite convincingly, and rolled through Marin Cilic in his last round.
Ferrer was out-ground in his last two meetings with Murray as the Brit was packing in the tournaments closing in on his spot in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, beating him twice in two weeks (Vienna final, Valencia semi-final) while still finding his form and his confidence in 2014 following back surgery.
As Murray explained to BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller, this has been a season of “firsts” for the Brit on clay. He won his first clay court title in Munich, before repeating that feat in Madrid, and is currently on an impressive 14-0 record in the matches he has played on the surface (having withdrawn before his planned third round match against David Goffin in Rome).
He has been moving better, and has been able to come back after losing sets with minimum fuss and worry, and perhaps that negates Ferrer’s obvious skills on clay, but the tenacious Spaniard excels at pushing his opponents to play that extra shot. In fact the worry is this match will become a defensive battle with Murray opting to play a similar game without bringing forward the kind of aggression we have wanted to see him consistently produce.
Ferrer can be expected to be steady and consistent from the baseline, hitting deep and dictating the movement around the court and while he may not have the greatest of hands at the net, his speed about the court means he can cut his opponents off and volley while he has them out of position. Like Murray he is an instinctive returner so we can expect some gruelling rallies and this would surprise no-one if it went to five sets.
With the victor going on to meet the winner of the hotly anticipated quarter-final between World No. 1 Djokovic and nine-time and defending champion Rafael Nadal, this is unlikely to be a match that will result in conserved energy.
Murray and Ferrer are scheduled to play their quarter-final on Wednesday.
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