He didn’t win, nor did he reach the final — but world No.1 Andy Murray says the French Open was a “turning point” for him after an indifferent start to the season.
The Briton, who recently renewed his coaching partnership with Ivan Lendl, was ousted in the semi-finals at Roland-Garros in a bruising, five-set encounter with Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka.
And although the Scot failed to see out the match after leading 2-1 going into the fourth set, he admitted that the tournament was an improvement on his recent form.
After a shock fourth-round defeat to German Mischa Zverev at the Australian Open in January, the 30-year-old suffered early losses at ATP tournaments in Rome, Madrid, Monte Carlo, and Indian Wells.
“I felt really good at the start of the year and the Australian Open was really disappointing,” Murray, who is playing his first full season as world No. 1, told CNN.
“The slams are my priorities and I’ve always wanted to perform in those and sometimes, with the gap between the Australian and the French, I’ve lost my way. I hope the French Open is a turning point.
“It takes a lot of time to build up your confidence and you can lose it quickly. So, I’m back on the right track, not quite where I want to be yet — there are a lot of things I feel I need to work on — but I’m getting there and hopefully the French Open is a step in the right direction.”
‘Nadal’s feats will never be matched’
Murray, who has one US Open and two Wimbledon titles to his name, will take heart from French Open victories over former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro — who beat the Scot in the Davis Cup last year — and world No.9 Kei Nishikori, who knocked him out of the 2016 US Open.
Despite Murray taking the lead midway through the semi-final, a resurgent Wawrinka — the world No.4 — won a tense fourth-set tiebreak and raced away in the fifth.
In the final, the Swiss met an irrepressible Rafa Nadal, who did what Nadal does best — win on the red dirt. Ever at home on the clay courts of Paris, the Spaniard claimed the 10th French Open title of his career.
Murray was full of praise for his rival, the most successful player in French Open history and second only to Australian Margaret Court in the number of titles won at a single major. Court won 11 Australian Opens, winning most of her titles down under before the Open Era.
“It’s hard to describe what he’s done, not just this year, but to win 10 times there. It’s amazing and I don’t think it will ever be matched. That’s how amazing it is. I don’t see it happening again.
“His game is built for that clay court and that surface and I don’t see anyone winning there 10 times again.”
A Wimbledon win?
Murray is a favorite to defend his Wimbledon title, although this year’s draw seems a trickier prospect with Nadal and Roger Federer both carrying the momentum of grand slam victories.
That said, the Swiss – returning to the Tour after an eight-week break — suffered a shock defeat in his first grass court game of the season, losing to world No. 302 Tommy Haas at the Stuttgart Open.
The world No.1 is also wary of players further down the draw. As with all grand slams, upsets are commonplace at Wimbledon: Milos Raonic knocked Federer out of last year’s competition, while then world No.1 Novak Djokovic succumbed to 26th seed Sam Querry.
“It’s going to be interesting, obviously, because of Roger and Rafa, they’ve both played great this year,” said Murray, who has won only one title so far this year.
“Rafa has not played a lot on the grass in the last few years and will be going without grass-court matches, but will be very confident.
“Roger has played amazing this year, but is also coming on the back of a big break, so it’ll be interesting to see how he comes back from that.
“And then the young guys, [Nick] Kyrgios, Raonic, Zverev, are improving all the time; Novak is always going to be tough, so I think it’s going to be an interesting event.”
The first round of matches at Wimbledon begin July 3.