COMMENT: The sporting fates have dreamed up perfect story for Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka
Not unlike Andy Murray himself, the sporting fates have devious ways of casting their spell.
As the draw for the French Open was made on Thursday afternoon, former finalist Andy Murray could have been paired with 127 potential opponents, but the one that was placed alongside him in the draw was that of Stan Wawrinka.
Not for the first time in what has become a traumatic final period in Murray’s remarkable career, the Swiss maestro who won the French Open back in 2015 will feature in the latest chapter of a story that essentially began when these same two players locked horns on the Philippe Chatrier court in the semi-finals of the 2017 edition of the Roland Garros event.
The gruelling, compelling five-set epic played out between Murray and Wawrinka on that occasion proved to be significant, as that was the day when the hop problem that had been troubling the Scot for some time became career-threatening.
As the then world No.1 limped off court after a battle that pushed both gladiators to breaking point, we didn’t know that it was to be the final time Murray would be competitive in a Grand Slam event for a considerable period of time.
Murray declared himself to be proud of his efforts after that remarkable 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 5-7 7-6 (7-3) 6-1 defeat in four hours and 34 minutes, with his failing body finally succumbing as his defence of the Wimbledon title ended with defeat against Sam Querrey a month later.
That, sadly, was the end of Murray’s reign as the world No.1, as well as the end of the player who defied so many odds to reach the top of the game.
Hip surgery was the only solution to try and keep Murray’s career alive in January 2019, with his victory against Wawrinka in the European Open final last October planting a glorious bookend to his recovery journey.
Now, just a day after he practised with Wawrinka as he prepared to make his first return to the French Open since that match in 2017, Murray has been pitched against a player who has become a rival and a friend in equal measure over the last few years.
Oh, how things have changed since that semi-final in 2017…
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) September 23, 2020
The decision to award Murray a wildcard into the main draw at the French Open was never in doubt and now we are presented with the delightful prospect of a showdown between the ‘other two’ greats from this most golden era of the men’s game.
Wawrinka will go into his 21st clash with Murray as a strong favourite on his favourite surface, but the warrior thrown into his path is not a man to be written off having won 12 of their meetings so far.
Murray pushed Wawrinka all the way on one hip three years ago and now we wait to see whether the rebuilt Scot is ready to produce another miracle in a career he refuses to give up on.
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