ANDY MURRAY believes his five-set French Open defeat to Novak Djokovic proves he is close to overcoming the Serbian and winning another grand slam title.
Murray fought back from two sets down to take the semi-final to a decider but he was blown away in the fifth as Djokovic sealed a 6-3 6-3 5-7 5-7 6-1 victory.
It is the second time this year Murray has lost to Djokovic in a grand slam, after his defeat in the Australian Open final, but the Scot believes the gap is narrowing between himself and the world No 1.
Play had been suspended for bad light on Friday evening, and Murray resumed trailing by two sets to one on Saturday, with the fourth finely poised at three games all. Djokovic found Murray initially formidable as he levelled the match, but the pattern changed around in the deciding set.
Djokovic therefore will tackle Stanislas Wawrinka in Sunday’s final.
“I’d suggest it’s pretty close between us after today’s match,” Murray said.
“I thought physically I was much better. We had been playing, I don’t know how long it was, just over three hours, and I felt good on the court.
“That was after a pretty tough match against David Ferrer, which was also three hours a couple of days ago.
“That was very positive for me. Physically I felt like I was doing really well (on Friday).
“I don’t know how good Novak was feeling, but I felt like I was in a good position at that stage. That was the most positive thing for me. Physically, I was right there.”
Murray looked to have the momentum on Friday when he clinched the third set, but his charge was halted as Djokovic called a medical time-out and then play was called off for the night due to bad light.
The Briton remained diplomatic regarding his opponent’s eight-minute absence, which carried echoes of the Melbourne final when Djokovic overcame injury to win in four.
“I’m not getting into that,” Murray said. “I said one word after my match with Novak in Australia and it was like I was complaining and trying to be a sore loser. That’s not what it is.
“Everyone is entitled to take the medical time-outs when required, and that’s what it is.”
Murray returned to the court today at the top of his game, breaking the Djokovic serve to secure the fourth set.
Djokovic, however, survived a lengthy opening service game in the decider and broke Murray twice to wrap up a convincing victory.
“In the first game of the fifth set I had a little chance on his serve, I had deuce and a second serve there,” said Murray.
“And then I played a loose game on my serve in the first game of the set with the new balls. I missed I think three balls long in that game.
“Then I think Novak relaxed a little bit after that and he hit the ball extremely accurate.
“In the fifth set he was hitting the ball very close to the line so I ended up doing a lot of defending.
“I felt like I ended up putting up like six or seven lobs just because he was hitting the ball very close to the line.
“The beginning of the fifth set was good for him.”
The defeat brings an end to Murray’s run of 15 consecutive victories and concludes what has been the world No 3’s most successful season on clay.
Murray won maiden titles in Munich and Madrid on the red sand and the 28-year-old is pleased with his form going into the grass-court tournaments.
“Obviously right now I’m upset but I would say, after Novak, I’ve probably played the best tennis in the major events,” he added.
“My game I think is back close to where it needs to be to be winning slams.
“Obviously now with the grass-court season coming up, hopefully I can get myself an opportunity there and play much better going into the grass this year than I was last year.
“Physically I’m in a much better place. We’ll see what happens the next few months, but it’s been a good start to the year.”