Rob Fanning looks ahead to today's two matches
It’s crunch time at the French Open today and there are two highly anticipated matches on the Philippe Chatrier court.
Up first, Andy Murray takes on Stan Wawrinka.
The World number one has struggled to find form this year. Despite winning the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Murray has not been playing the sort of tennis we are used to seeing. Losing in the Third Round of Monte Carlo and Madrid and the Second Round of Rome gave his fans little hope heading into the French Open.
However, like all great champions, the Scot has found a way to rekindle his form as the tournament has progressed. He dropped a set in his first two matches against Andrey Kuznetsov and Martin Klizan, but finished off strongly in both matches.
His Third and Fourth Round matches were won in comprehensive fashion - beating Juan Martin Del Potro and Karen Khachanov. His latest match was an interesting one, against a tricky opponent in Kei Nishikori. Murray surrendered the first set but was mentally very tough to come back and win the match in four sets.
Wawrinka is the prime example of a player who hits peak form when he needs too. He won a clay court tournament in Geneva a fortnight ago and so far in this year's second Grand Slam, he has played near his best. Stan is yet to drop a set and looks to be firing on all cylinders.
The Swiss number one has made light work of players such as Fabio Fognini, Gael Monfils and Marin Cilic. The third seed will be looking to book a place in Sunday’s final and win his second French Open title in three years.
The stats would suggest that Murray should be the favourite, given that he is the world number one and more significantly he beat Wawrinka at this exact stage of the competition last year. It’s well understood that clay is not Murray’s favourite surface but deep into an important event we know how clinical he can be, building confidence after every match.
Having said that, Wawrinka seems to tick all the boxes. Some of the best tennis we have ever seen him play was in the latter rounds of this tournament when he lifted the trophy two years ago. His aggressive style of play is something all tennis fans can admire. The way he moves and uses his one handed backhand to manoeuvre his opponents around the court would remind you of his fellow countryman - Roger Federer.
I expect Wawrinka win in four sets.
The second semi-final promises to be a cracker. Rafeal Nadal who is bidding for his tenth Roland Garros title will face the exceptionally talented Domic Thiem.
Where do we even start? There are no more ways to describe what this man has achieved on a clay court and the most amazing thing about it is that he doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. Nadal’s form has dipped over the last few seasons but this year he has reignited his game.
His form on a clay court this year has been just about perfect - winning titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid. His sole loss on the surface this season came against Thiem in Rome - who won the match in straight sets. Nadal has won a staggering 77 out of a possible 79 matches at Roland Garros in his career. So far in this year's tournament he has only dropped 22 games, winning the other 80.
The 23-year-old has really come into his own this season. Ranked a career high of seventh in the world, the young Austrian can certainly hit the ball from the back of the court. This will be the pair's fourth meeting in the last eight weeks. Thiem fell short to Nadal in both the Madrid and Barcelona final.
However, most recently, he got the better of the Spaniard in Rome only a few weeks ago. There is no court in the world where Nadal looks more comfortable on then centre court at the French Open, but maybe the flair and power of Thiem could cause a major upset. It certainly is shaping up to be a classic.
I predict Nadal to win in five sets.