U.S. Open: Wawrinka d. Murray
NEW YORK—Remnants of the wreckage—the mangled orange racquet and sweat-soaked shirts—were strewn about the court at Andy Murray's feet.
Stanislas Wawrinka not only deconstructed Murray's game, he beat up on his gear as well.
The ninth-seeded Swiss served with authority and played superb all-court tennis in befuddling the defending champion, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal.
Denied in three prior Grand Slam quarterfinals, Wawrinka joins former doubles partner Roger Federer and Marc Rosset as the third Swiss man to reach a major semi. Wawrinka, who took charge by winning a marathon 10th game, hit three times as many winners (45 to 15) and won 31 of 42 trips to net to beat Murray in Flushing Meadows for the second time in four years.
It all stemmed from the serve. Wawrinka served boldly to neutralize one of the game's best returners: He won 88 percent of his first-serve points, did not face a break point, and let it fly—with success—on pivotal moments.
Wawrinka and Murray are friends and practice partners, and you can see why these two like to spend their spare time banging the ball around: Wawrinka loves to rip and Murray loves to run. The former is a shot-maker who craves the rush of driving dagger down the line, while the latter can make the mad scramble and running pass look routine.
Breezy conditions and taut nerves were evident at the outset. Murray worked through two deuce games on serve; Wawrinka whiffed on his signature shot, the one-handed backhand, then badly shanked another backhand in the seventh game. On the offensive, Murray had a good look at a forehand down the line, but over-hit the shot—a sign of struggles to come—and Wawrinka held for 5-4.
The 15-minute skirmish that followed was the turning point. Murray fought off five set points before Wawrinka stung an inside-out forehand winner for a sixth. When the Scot sailed another forehand deep, Wawrinka had the set in hand and a raging Murray tomahawked his racquet to the court, leaving the head of his Head Radical mangled. Wawrinka hit twice as many winners (16 to eight) as Murray, who betrayed his cause with 15 unforced errors in the set.
Murray is a very clever player, but there are times winning a point demands monotonous repetition rather than mischievous improvisation. Murray staggered, netting successive backhands on some sloppy footwork to face triple break point midway through the second set. Wawrinka lined up his backhand and lashed a winner down the line to break for 4-2. Stan backed up the break with an emphatic love hold—extending his run to 12 consecutive points—for 5-2.
Serving for a two-set lead, Wawrinka whipped a second serve into Murray's hip, forcing an errant forehand return wide, and the reigning champion was reeling.
Aggression helped Wawrinka build his lead—he won 12 of 16 trips to the net in the second set—and his willingness to attack the second serve spooked Murray. He was up quickly to a net-cord sitter, but netted a routine forehand and then sputtered a double fault to hand Wawrinka the break and a 2-1 third-set lead. The crowd tried to rouse Murray, but Wawrinka would not wilt.
Stan came achingly close to knocking world No. 1 Novak Djokovic out of the Australian Open in January, falling in a gut-wrenching five hour marathon. This time, there was no stopping him from the finish line.
Serving for the semifinals with new balls, Wawrinka hit a gutsy full-court smash off the bounce to get to 15-30, then showed some hops soaring off the court to snap off a tricky smash that brought him to match point. Murray put a final forehand into net, Wawrinka thrust his arms in the air, and the reign was over. At the age of 28, and in his 35th career Grand Slam, Wawrinka arrived in his first major semifinal.
IBM Stat of the Match: Usually someone who feeds off his opponents' errors, Murray struck 30 of his own, compared to just winners.
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