Andy Murray has enjoyed a successful season on clay after reaching the French Open semi-finals
Last Updated: 08/06/15 10:17am
Andy Murray exited the French Open at the semi-final stage on Saturday, going down in five sets to world No 1 Novak Djokovic, but proved he can mix it with the very best on clay.
Clay has traditionally been seen as the British No 1's weakest surface but after winning in Munich and Madrid, expectations were higher than usual for Murray heading to Roland Garros.
However, despite his best efforts the two-time Grand Slam champion was unable to progress beyond the last four after losing for an eighth successive time to Djokovic.
So what have we learnt about Murray after the second slam of the year ...
Getting back to his best
"I'd suggest it's pretty close between us after today's match," Murray said after his semi-final defeat.
"Obviously right now I'm upset but I would say, after Novak, I've probably played the best tennis in the major events.”
It is hard to argue with the Scot. He has been in great form in 2015 and has only lost to Djokovic in the two Grand Slams so far this year, reaching the final in Australia before making the semis in Paris.
Not only that, but while he may have fallen just short on both occasions, there have been times in both matches where Murray has taken control and he matched the Serb for large parts in those meetings.
In fact, no one had taken a set off Djokovic ahead of their last four clash on Court Philippe Chatrier – Murray took two.
He may not be there quite yet but Murray is getting close to his best, major-winning form.
Comfortable on clay
Murray's much improved form on clay was highlighted as he triumphed in Munich, taking a maiden title, and quickly added another in Madrid, but there were still a few lingering question marks coming into the French Open.
Any suggestion that the Scot would stutter on this surface was swept away as he progressed with impressive wins over Nick Kyrgios and Jeremy Chardy, the latter deflating the home crowd.
His first ever victory against David Ferrer on clay at the quarter-final stage was undoubtedly his most significant and was a big psychological barrier to clear.
Huge strides have been made on the red dirt this year and Murray proved he could match any of the world's top players.
Deciding set obstacles
Against Djokovic, Murray dominated the third and fourth sets before his momentum was quashed by the Serb who allowed the Briton just one game in the deciding set.
In two of their other meetings this year - at the Australian Open and Miami finals - Djokovic had won the decisive sets 6-0.
The Serb still seems to have that ruthless edge in the closing stages of their encounters, but Murray should depart Paris with plenty of positives as his third career run to the semi-finals took him to 15 straight wins on the surface.
"After Novak, I would say I probably played the best tennis in the major events, in the slams," said Murray.
"Also in the Masters Series I have been quite consistent in the ones that I have played. And I won probably more matches to this stage than I have any other year of my career.
"That's what it feels like. I don't know if that is the case, but that's what it feels like. That's been positive."
Wimbledon next ...
Murray is in the perfect place with his game and fitness to reclaim his Wimbledon title next month.
His Roland Garros defeat ended British hopes of a first finalist in Paris since Bunny Austin in 1937, but it sparks greater optimism in the 28-year-old that a second Wimbledon title is within his grasp.
"My game is back close to where it needs to be to winning slams," said Murray whose Wimbledon reign was ended by Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals in 2014, a straight sets loss where a bad injury conspired against him.
"Physically I'm back there again, and obviously now with the grass-court season coming up, hopefully I can get myself an opportunity there and play much better going into the grass this year than I was last year.
"Physically I'm in a much better place. We'll see what happens the next few months, but it's been a good start to the year."
Murray, instilled with fresh confidence and hope, will target a fourth title at Queen's Club before heading to the All England Club.
He holds a 2-0 winning record over Djokovic thanks to his Olympic Games semi-final triumph in 2012 and his Wimbledon title the following year.
He is 1-1 against Roger Federer in London after taking gold in the Olympics on Centre Court just weeks after losing the 2012 Wimbledon final.
Of his top three rivals, his record on the Wimbledon grass against Nadal does not make encouraging reading, losing in 2008, 2010 and 2011, but Murray's form suggests a third Grand Slam title is just around the corner.