ANDY MURRAY was proud of his French Open efforts despite falling just short against Stan Wawrinka in a brutal semi-final.
Murray ended Wawrinka’s reign as champion in the semi-finals 12 months ago, but could not engineer a repeat as the Swiss triumphed 6-7 (6/8) 6-3 5-7 7-6 (7/3) 6-1 after four hours and 34 minutes.
It was a rollercoaster of a match, with Murray second-best for most of the first three sets, but somehow emerging two sets to one in front.
He then looked in control of the fourth, but it was Wawrinka who dominated the tie-break and by the decider Murray had nothing left.
Wawrinka, who has won all his previous three grand slams finals, will face Rafael Nadal tomorrow.
Having arrived in Paris with only four wins since February and unsure even whether he would survive one match, Murray could not be too unhappy with his loss.
He said: “I’m proud of the tournament I had. I did well considering. I was one tie-break away from getting to the final when I came in really struggling. So I have to be proud of that.
“Maybe the lack of matches hurt me a little bit in the end today. That was a very high-intensity match. A lot of long points.
“When you haven’t been playing loads, four and a half hours, that can catch up to you a little bit. So I only have myself to blame for that, for the way I played coming into the tournament.
“But I turned my form around really, really well and ended up having a good tournament, all things considered.”
Murray is still not quite at the same level as he was last year, when he played probably his best clay-court match to defeat Wawrinka and then went on to dominate the second half of the season.
He was unable to take the match to his opponent in the same way and for most of the contest it was attack against defence.
But what attack and what defence. Wawrinka smashed 87 winners, mostly off his forehand to start with before the backhand joined the party in the second set.
The 32-year-old, now the oldest French Open men’s finalist since Niki Pilic in 1973, might have won all of the first three sets, but somehow found himself behind.
Maybe the lack of matches hurt me a little bit in the end today. That was a very high-intensity match. A lot of long points.Andy Murray
This was mostly to do with Murray’s incredible defensive skills and relentless fighting spirit.
He broke Wawrinka when the third seed served for the first set, sending one of his remarkable lobs onto the baseline on break point, which his frustrated opponent smashed long.
Murray saved a set point in a tie-break that was virtually a match in itself, eventually clinching it when Wawrinka netted a return.
But the Swiss took control midway through the second set and from 3-2 down won seven games in a row.
At 3-0 in the third to Wawrinka, things looked bleak for Murray, but he moved a little closer to the baseline while continuing to pull off some amazing recovery shots.
Particularly impressive was Murray’s ability not just to return Wawrinka’s smashes, but to hit winning shots off them.
The Scot won five of the last six games to take the set, and looked favourite to claim the fourth with Wawrinka showing his frustration.
But the Swiss regrouped and came back swinging, capitalising on a poor Murray drop shot to win the tie-break and then blasting his way through the fifth against an opponent who had spent all his energy.
Murray said: “I lost a little bit of speed on my serve, which wasn’t allowing me to dictate many points. He obviously hit some greats shots in the fifth, but I didn’t keep the score close enough to put him under pressure.
“Physically I didn’t feel my best at the end. I didn’t have enough weight on my shot.
“A lot of the points he was dictating from the middle of the court and I was retrieving and allowing him to pretty much hit the shots that he wants. Against a shot-maker, someone who hits the ball as big as him, that’s obviously not ideal.
“There are a few things that I for sure would have liked to have done a bit differently. I feel my net game was really poor. That hurt me on a few occasions and at some important moments.”
Wawrinka was very happy with the way he stayed mentally in the match and felt Murray was not the same opponent he faced 12 months ago.
“For sure it wasn’t easy to be two sets to one down,” he said. “When you play a player like Andy Murray, you know that you can dominate the games, but he’s still going to be there.
“He’s still going to do incredible defence, play the right tennis in the right moment. That’s why he’s number one in the world.
“I was trying to focus on my game. I knew I had some good chances in the first set, in the third set also. I’m really happy to find a way how to win the match.
“Last year he was stronger. He was very aggressive, and he never really let me install my game.”
Great Britain’s Alfie Hewett will play in two wheelchair finals at the French Open.
The 19-year-old from Norwich reached his first grand slam singles final with a 6-4 6-4 victory over Japan’s Shingo Kuneida, before partnering Gordon Reid to a 6-4 3-6 10-8 win against Argentina’s Fernandez and Maikel Scheffers of Holland in the doubles semi-finals.