‘Motivated’ Andy Murray up for French Open clash with Stan Wawrinka

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In the aftermath of his brutal five-set loss to Stan Wawrinka in the semi-finals of the 2017 French Open, Andy Murray was struggling but still ­unaware of just how much his life was about to change. Having spent most of his career thriving in lengthy best-of- five-set matches, they were now excruciating.

“I couldn’t sleep that night,” ­Murray said on Friday. “My hip was in so much pain. I remember getting up in the night, I was lying on the sofa in loads of pain. I never recovered. I couldn’t extend my leg behind me properly after that match. It was a shame.”

That defeat, Murray said, would prove the final straw for his hip and his status as a top player competing for grand slam titles. On Sunday he will return to the same venue for another match with the Swiss in the first round of the French Open as they reignite their 19-year rivalry in what will probably be Murray’s final ­appearance in Paris.

With both players firmly in the twilight of their careers, the ­circumstances could not be more ­different. Murray, who has just turned 37, has endured his most difficult year to date on tour, with a significant injury following poor form. Now 39, Wawrinka has three wins and nine defeats on the ATP Tour this year, although he appears far more content with his current circumstances.

Two months ago the prospect of Murray competing in Paris seemed remote after he suffered a serious ankle injury during his third round match at the Miami Open. After the Scot’s injury history, it would have been reasonable for him to have struggled with his motivation at the prospect of another lengthy period of rehab on the sidelines.

“I was surprised how I was during the rehab – I felt really motivated,” said Murray. “I worked extremely hard every single day with my team and physio, there were no breaks or holidays to feel sorry for myself,.

“I just did the work. I was surprised with that because I could quite ­easily have felt sorry for myself, taken a break and not done the rehab as well I did. I’m proud of that. It would have been easy to have looked at it a ­different way and I worked really hard to get back and that’s one of the reasons why I was able to come back a bit sooner than I anticipated.”

Meanwhile, Jannik Sinner and ­Carlos Alcaraz, seeded second and third respectively, are both feeling healthy and ready to compete after their preparations for the French Open were disrupted by injuries. While the latter has been ­struggling with a ­forearm injury since the ­beginning of the clay-court season, Sinner suffered a hip injury at the Madrid Open this month. Both ­players subsequently withdrew from the ­Italian Open, but they have trained without incident since arriving in Paris. As the highest-ranked players in the bottom half of the draw, they could play each other in the semi-finals.

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Novak Djokovic walks off court in Geneva after losing against Tomas MachacView image in fullscreen

Alcaraz also admitted that he did not want to play against Rafael Nadal in the first round. The 14-time ­champion had initially been drawn against either the third or fourth seed. Alexander Zverev – the world No 4 – will be Nadal’s ­opponent. “No, ­honestly,” said Alcaraz, ­smiling. “When I saw that it was 50% chances that I could play against Rafa, it … [no] thanks.”

Novak Djokovic’s unconvincing preparation to defend his French Open title continued as he lost 6-4, 0-6, 6-1 against Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic in the semi-finals of the Geneva Open.

With the defeat, Djokovic will head to Paris without a title in the year for the first time since 2018 and the ­second time since he won his first career title in 2006.

Source: theguardian.com

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