PARIS — Battering the ball as if each shot would determine the match’s outcome, 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka came back to beat No. 1-ranked Andy Murray 6-7 (6), 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-1 on Friday and become the oldest French Open finalist in 44 years.
The No. 3-seeded Wawrinka, a 32-year-old from Switzerland, reached the fourth Grand Slam final of his career. He’s won the previous three: at Roland Garros two years ago, the U.S. Open last September and the Australian Open in 2014.
A year ago at the French Open, Wawrinka lost to Murray in the semifinals. This time, Wawrinka managed to wear down the seemingly tireless Murray, himself a three-time major champion. It was a triumph of offense over defense, as Wawrinka used his sublime one-handed backhand and hammer of a forehand to send Murray scrambling and sliding all over the red clay at Court Philippe Chatrier for a tad more than 4 1/2 hours.
Over and over again, Murray would lean, or even lunge, and somehow manage to put his racket strings on seemingly unreachable shots. Murray used plenty of drop shots and lobs, often to great effect. He deflected overheads. In sum, Murray generally made Wawrinka work so hard to get any shot past him.
But make no mistake: Wawrinka does not discourage easily. He kept absolutely walloping his strokes, resolute in his intention to attack and attack and attack.
Wawrinka ran away with the fifth set, taking 16 of the first 21 points and going up 5-0. He ended it, appropriately, with a backhand down the line, his 87th winner of the day, 51 more than Murray accumulated.
When he faces nine-time champion Rafael Nadal of Spain will be the oldest man in a French Open title match since Niki Pilic was 33 when he was the runner-up to Ilie Nastase in 1973.