Mats Wilander has hailed Andy Murray’s performance in the French Open semi-final against Stan Wawrinka as a four-set master class in how to crush an opponent tactically, physically and mentally.
In his role as a columnist for L’Equipe, Wilander told the French newspaper that it was the best match he had ever seen at Roland Garros.
“Incredible,” he said. “I’ve never seen anyone play better than that here. I don’t think anyone played tactically better than that against the opponent that he played in terms of the variation of shots he played, the variation of height, of when to hit the high forehand that bounces above Stan Wawrinka’s shoulder so that he can’t do anything.”
Seven times a grand slam champion and three times the winner in Paris, Wilander was a master tactician. And what he admires most about the Scot is his brain – Murray can devise a game plan to outwit anyone. It was the forehand-backhand combo that had Wilander in raptures on Friday and it was the way he used the tactic that impressed the Swede most of all.
“Not the timing of his actual shot but the timing in the rally,” Wilander said. “Is it the first backhand? Is it the second backhand? So when he hit the forehand high and then he hit the backhand flat into Wawrinka where Wawrinka couldn’t do anything – to get that right is the best feeling in the world for a tennis player.”
Wilander is the nicest of men around the tennis tour. He is friendly, chatty and always happy to help a stressed journalist with an informed quote, but he hides a darker side. He views tennis as a blood sport and his wish is to break the opponent’s spirit. That is what he saw in Murray two days ago and that is how he wants Murray to play in the final today. The Scot dragged Wawrinka into 43 unforced errors and 53 forced errors. That brought a smile to Wilander’s face.
“I am never a fan of winners,” Wilander said. “Winners are irrelevant. Winners means the other guy didn’t touch the ball. What you want to do is hit the ball so perfectly that your opponent has a chance - but he doesn’t make it. Because that’s heart-breaking.
“When you’re there and you’re late and Wawrinka’s like ‘aaah, I can’t make it’ – that’s tennis! That’s what they should all strive for. And we all want to play tennis like that. We don’t want to hit clean winners, we want the other guy to make a mistake but he didn’t really have a choice [about it]. He couldn’t even defend against it. That’s what tennis is about. That’s perfect tennis.”
What also impressed the Swede was the way Murray did not even break step after losing the third set to Wawrinka. There was no dip in concentration, no frustration or anger – he just kept to his game plan and broke the Swiss in the opening game of the fourth set.
“That was brilliant,” Wilander said. “The problem has been in the past is that Andy’s really good tactically but then emotionally he gets in his own way. He starts complaining because he’s not successful. He’s successful with the tactics but it doesn’t work on the scoreboard always, right? Today it was successful tactics but it also worked on the scoreboard apart from the third set. And if he can do that then of course he can beat Djokovic in all these finals.”