Andy Murray takes on Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals of the French Open today, after a tournament in which he has had to struggle with an ankle injury and that tricky temperament of his. It’s yet another chance at a Grand Slam title that still eludes him, and even if he wins he’s going to be up against either Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer in the final.
However for Murray this match with Nadal couldn’t come at a better time, even if the Spaniard has beaten him 10 of the 14 times they’ve met. He is too struggling with his form, and has looked easy to put off his stride. However Murray knows that it will be far from easy.
‘It's tough,’ he said to The Guardian. ‘The conditions here have been so tricky. It's not that easy with the way the wind's been blowing around to stick to (a plan).
‘You have to be the aggressor (against Nadal) but it doesn't mean going for outrageous winners. It means keeping the ball to a good length and hitting it hard and with a good margin so, if he leaves one short, you can come forward. I won't just think that on the second point I have to go for a winner because I don't want the rally to go for five or six shots. On clay, against everyone, you need to play long rallies.
‘It's the trajectory of the ball you hit. You can still hit a very aggressive shot but give it a metre of height over the net and make sure it's not going to land an inch from the line. You can still make the move. If you hit a good wide serve to the deuce court, you can hit the forehand high and up the line without having to run from one corner to the other. Then you might get the short ball and that might be the time to go for it – but you have to be careful not to get dragged into panicking that you need to finish the points quickly, which I have done a few times this tournament, hitting a lot of drop shots, going for flat balls early in rallies. It just doesn't work.
‘You have to be willing to work for points. If he loses some of the longer rallies, that creates doubt for him whereas, if he sees you rushing the net, serve-volleying all the time, it's so tough to keep it up.
'I know his game well. I like playing against him. I understand that Rafa could probably get away without playing his best match on clay against me and I understand that I'm going to have to play my best to give myself a good chance. I definitely feel like the underdog.'