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Murray in need of ‘long hard think’ after bruising French Open defeat

Andy Murray was left without answers on and off the court after a one-sided defeat to Stan Wawrinka at the French Open.

French Open tennis is live from 27 September-11 October 2020 – watch and bet on Roland Garros matches live at bet365. (Geo-restrictions apply, funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify; go here for more information.)

For the second Grand Slam in a row, Murray lost in straight sets, this time getting just six games against Wawrinka as they clashed in the first round of the French Open.

Murray was playing his first match at the French Open since 2017, when he lost to Wawrinka in a four-hour, 34-minute semifinal which pushed both men beyond their physical limits. But Sunday’s match on Court Philippe-Chatrier failed to deliver any comparable drama as Wawrinka took just 100 minutes to win 6-1, 6-3, 6-2.

The one-sided defeat left Murray admitting he needs to go back to the drawing board.

‘I need to have a long hard think about it. It’s not the sort of match I would just brush aside and not think about it. I think that’s one of the worst defeats by scoreline in my career. I need to understand why the performance was like that.’

The impact of that 2017 semifinal battle continues to reverberate in both men’s careers to this day. Neither would play more than a handful of matches for the remainder of the 2017 season. Wawrinka underwent multiple knee surgeries, and has not yet been able to make his way back into the top 10, although he resembles his old self much more than Murray – the 2015 French Open champion is ranked world no. 17 and has been able to make the quarterfinals of three of the past four majors, including last year’s Roland Garros.

French Open 2020: Tournament information, player records, statistics and guides to streaming Roland Garros matches live

Murray, of course, struggled for two years to rehab his injured hip before undergoing hip resurfacing surgery in January 2019 when on the brink of retirement. He had some success when he returned to the singles court in the summer, including winning the European Open in Antwerp where he beat Wawrinka in the final. But fallout from his surgery kept him off the court for the beginning of the 2020 season, which was then shut down until mid-August. The British player is currently ranked world no. 111.

Wawrinka hit 42 winners despite slow, heavy conditions (Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA)

Wawrinka proved he will have no difficulty in hitting through the unusually cold, slow and heavy conditions at this year’s autumn French Open as he struck 42 winners over the course of the match. After Murray held to open, he was broken three times to lose the first set 1-6 and the match was never anything over than one-way traffic from that point on.

Murray’s serving was particularly problematic. He landed 36% of his first serves in the match, saving only two of the eight break points with which he was faced.

Murray was left balancing praise for his opponent with excoriating his own performance, saying:

‘Today was a really tough draw and even if I played well there’s no guarantees I would win that match but today I didn’t play well. I served less than 40%, that’s just not good enough.

‘I haven’t served like that… that’s nothing to do with my hip. Mistiming returns and serving at 38% that’s got nothing to do with that. That’s something I need to look at with my team. There’s been matches I’ve served well since I came back, that’s not a physical issue.’

Murray and Wawrinka meet at the net (ChrysleneCaillaud/Panoramic)

Wawrinka moves on to face the in-form Dominik Koepfer, who recently made the quarterfinals of the Rome Masters as a qualifier, in the second round and is on a potential collision course with Dominic Thiem in the fourth round.

Murray goes back to the drawing board, although he struck a defiant note:

‘Zverev was a couple of points from winning the US Open and I’d won against him the week before. I’ll keep going. Let’s see what the next few months hold. I reckon I won’t play a match like that between now and the end of the year.’

It was a poor day for British players all round, with Dan Evans losing 6-1, 1-6, 6-7(3), 6-1, 4-6 to Kei Nishikori. He would not have been expected to do very well in Paris, but Johanna Konta, seeded ninth and a semifinalist at the French Open in 2019, was another matter. She also suffered a one-sided defeat to a tough opponent, losing 3-6, 3-6 to Coco Gauff.

 

Grand Slam champions face off in a fateful first-round French Open rematch as Andy Murray takes on Stan Wawrinka.

Murray vs Wawrinka is live from Roland Garros on Sunday 27 September, time TBC

Returning to the French Open for the first time since 2017, Andy Murray finds himself facing exactly the same opponent: Stan Wawrinka, who beat him in a four-hour, 34-minute semifinal which pushed both men beyond their limits.

French Open 2020: Find out tournament information for Roland Garros 2020 and how to stream French Open matches live

Murray has not played a match on clay since that fateful semifinal, and has played just five matches in 2020, while Wawrinka has been searching for form at Challenger level. Could Murray possibly turn the clock back on Sunday?

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

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Murray vs Wawrinka: Head-to-head

Andy Murray leads the head-to-head with Stan Wawrinka 12-8. He has also won four of the last five matches against the Swiss, including a French Open clash in 2016 and their most recent encounter, in the Antwerp final last autumn.

Wawrinka has an overall 4-1 advantage in clay-court matches.

Murray vs Wawrinka: Preview

The tennis gods have a twisted sense of humour – that’s the only explanation for a French Open draw which pits four of the six Grand Slam champions in the men’s draw against each other in the first round. That Andy Murray should have drawn Stan Wawrinka in a rematch of the 2017 semifinal which arguably changed both men’s careers forever, on the British player’s first return to Roland Garros since that match, almost beggars belief.

Wawrinka won that four-hour, 34-minute encounter, lost to Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the final and managed two more matches in 2017 before shutting down his season to undergo multiple knee surgeries; Murray limped to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, then shut down his season, eventually almost retiring at the 2019 Australian Open before underdoing hip resurfacing surgery.

It’s the Swiss man who has returned to something like his old form and ranking; he’s made the quarterfinals of three of the past four majors, including last year’s French Open and the Australian Open in January, and is currently ranked world no. 17, while Murray only made his return to Grand Slam tennis at the US Open, beating Yoshihito Nishioka in five sets and having precisely zero energy left with which to avoid being soundly defeated by Felix Auger-Aliassime.

And yet Murray has won the two most recent matches these two have played – 6-1, 6-3 in Eastbourne in 2018, and 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in Antwerp last autumn, when he came back from a set and a break down to steal victory from under Wawrinka’s nose.

Stan Wawrinka has made the quarterfinals at three of the last four Grand Slams including Roland Garros (PA Images)

Wawrinka decided to skip the US swing, playing back-to-back Challengers in Prague instead. He won the first and reached the quarterfinals of the second before pulling out, but his level of tennis was not exactly convincing (he was pushed to three sets by five players ranked outside the top 100) and his only ATP Tour-level match was an 0-6, 6-7(2) defeat to Lorenzo Musetti at the Rome Masters.

It’s not too encouraging, but Wawrinka does reliably find his best tennis at Grand Slams, and he is playing a man with a metal hip. Moreover, the Swiss player can hit his way through slow, cold conditions – he has that kind of power, although his spin won’t be as brutal as it usually is – and he always was a better clay-court than Murray. I think Murray will take a set, but this reunion should end the same way the 2017 semifinal did – with Wawrinka triumphant.

Murray vs Wawrinka: Prediction

World no. 17 Stan Wawrinka continues his search for form at Challenger level as he takes on Oscar Otte for a place in the quarterfinals in Prague.

Wawrinka vs Otte is live from Prague on Wednesday 19 August, time TBC

Stan Wawrinka hasn’t played a Challenger tournament for a decade, not since winning Lugano in 2010, but the three-time Grand Slam champion has opted to play the I.CTLK Prague Open by Moneta on clay ahead of upcoming, bigger ATP Tour events and the French Open instead of travelling to the USA.

ATP Prague Challenger: Tournament information, schedules and live streams for the Prague Open

After an uneven three-set win in the first round over Roman Safiullin, Wawrinka will look to impose his will on second-round opponent Oscar Otte, a 27-year-old German ranked world no. 217.

Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.

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Wawrinka vs Otte: Head-to-head

This will be the first meeting between Stan Wawrinka and Oscar Otte.

Wawrinka vs Otte: Preview

Arguably the most high-profile player apart from Rafael Nadal to have opted to sit out the upcoming two-tournament US swing, including the US Open where he is a former champion, Wawrinka is clearly targeting the European clay-court season as his decision to drop down to Challenger level for the first time in a decade indicates.

The world no. 17 last played in Acapulco on hard courts in February, losing in the quarterfinals to Grigor Dimitrov, and with finals reached in Antwerp and Rotterdam in 2019 and Grand Slam quarterfinals made at the French Open, US Open and Australian Open over the past 15 months, looked pre-shutdown as close to his major-title-winning old self than he has since multiple knee surgeries in 2017.

How close that is to the kind of form which might win him another major title is another question. But the time off court certainly won’t have done the 35-year-old any harm physically or mentally, and playing in Prague is a good way to recover match fitness. Up against world no. 189 Roman Safiullin in the first round, Wawrinka was stretched to three sets, but it’s notable that he won the first and third sets in dominant fashion, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1. He was actually up an early break in the second set, only to narrowly lose it after losing control of the match midway through the set when Safiullin fended off multiple break points in a lengthy game – all very understandable after such a long period off court.
Oscar Otte, who has been playing multiple matches for German exhibition leagues during the shutdown (and winning 18 of the 22, for whatever that’s worth), has yet to drop a set in Prague in wins over Malek Jaziri 6-4, 6-0 and 13th seed Arthur Rinderknech 6-2, 6-3. Couple it with his exhibition results and that’s some good form for the 27-year-old journeyman, who was 1-4 in 2020 before the shutdown, has never ranked above world no. 129 and is currently world no. 216.

Otte has a 3-12 record against top-10 players, with his best win by rankings coming over then world no. 92 Jaziri (obviously a good match-up for Otte) in the first round of the French Open when both were lucky losers. It would really strain credulity to see him beating Wawrinka, and the Swiss player

Wawrinka vs Otte: Prediction

Over 22.5 games @ 11/10 with Unibet

*Odds correct at 17.44 BST on 18/8/2020

 

Stan Wawrinka will lead the draw for the upcoming back-to-back Challenger 125s in Prague as ATP Challenger Tour tennis returns.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka will be the star attraction as the ATP Challenger Tour resumes its lengthy hiatus.

The second-highest tier of elite men’s tennis, the ATP Challenger Tour has been suspended – alongside the ATP Tour proper, the WTA and the ITF – since mid-March, due to the global health crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

WTA tournaments resumed on 3 August and ATP Tour tennis is due to return on 22 August, but the ATP Challenger Tour will restart on 15 August in the Czech Republic and Italy. With the aim of keeping international travel to a minimum, there will be a four-week swing of tournaments in the Czech Republic and another in Italy.

And the return of Challenger Tour tennis received a boost with the news that world no. 17 Wawrinka has signed up to lead the field at back-to-back Challenger events in Prague.

Wawrinka will be playing a Challenger for the first time since winning Lugano in 2010 when he leads the field at the I.CLTK Prague Open by Moneta from 15-22 August, followed by the RPM Open by Moneta from 22-30 August.

The Swiss star is one of the high-profile players to have opted not to travel to the USA for the upcoming two-tournament bubble to be played behind closed doors in New York, with the relocated Western & Southern Open (22-28 August) followed by the US Open (31 August-13 September).

Other absentees include Rafael Nadal, Gael Monfils, Fabio Fognini and Nick Kyrgios.

Wawrinka said:

‘It’s a privilege to be back on court doing what we love. I’m looking forward to returning to beautiful Prague after many years.

‘I’ve been working hard and practising well during the last few weeks. Now I can’t wait to be back in competition and to play matches again.’

Other top-100 players set to play the Prague Challengers include Czech hope Jiri Vesely, German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber and France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

Wawrinka will be playing for the first time since reaching the quarterfinals of Acapulco in February, where he lost to Grigor Dimitrov, and hoping to find his game ahead of the upcoming Rome Masters and the French Open – both played, like the Prague Challengers, on red clay.
Tournament director and I. Cesky Lawn Tennis Klub manager Vladislav Savrda said it was ‘a real honour’ to have Wawrinka joining the field.

He added: ‘I am confident that the first ATP Challenger after six months will run very smoothly.’

Savrda can draw confidence from what has been a smooth resumption of competition on the WTA Tour, despite unfamiliar health and safety protocols and limited or absent crowds. One player tested positive for COVID-19 before last week’s Palermo Ladies Open began and was withdrawn, but otherwise the International tournament proceeded calmly, with France’s Fiona Ferro claiming the title. To date there have been no positive tests reported at the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Kentucky, where Serena Williams is leading the field, or at the Prague Open at the TK Sparta Praha which features world no. 2 Simona Halep as the top seed.