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Magnifique for Murray as he serves up another piece of tennis history; Paris final place is a real feat of clay for Andy.

Byline: Eleanor Crooks

ANDY Murray's voice cracked as he tried to sum up what his latest piece of British tennis history meant to him.

By beating champion Stan Wawrinka in the semi-finals of the French Open, Murray became the first British man since Bunny Austin 79 years ago to reach the singles final at Roland Garros.

On Sunday he will face his old adversary Novak Djokovic as he bids again to emulate Fred Perry, the last British men's champion in 1935.

Speaking on Court Philippe Chatrier after his 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-2 victory over Wawrinka, Murray struggled to contain his emotion.

He said: "I'm extremely proud. I never expected to reach the final here."

Murray will play in his 10th slam final looking for his third title and is only the 10th man in the Open era to have reached the final at all four slams.

Before his clay-court epiphany last year it was virtually unthinkable he would make it this far at Roland Garros.

Yet his performance against Wawrinka showed just how far he has come on the surface and victory over Djokovic on Sunday would not be the huge shock it once would have been.

Murray said afterwards he knew he would have to play one of his best claycourt matches if he was to beat Wawrinka, who stunned Djokovic in the final 12 months ago and was unbeaten in 12 matches here.

This was undoubtedly his best showing on clay and one of his best on any surface.

He never allowed Wawrinka to find any rhythm, won the backhand contest against one of its prime exponents, deployed the drop shot impeccably, came to the net intelligently and served brilliantly when he needed to.

He also handled the occasion superbly, maintaining his focus throughout and not allowing the crowd, who roared when Wawrink a won the third set, to distract him. He added: "To play at that level in the semis of the French Open is very pleasing.

"There was a lot of pressure there, as well, today. I was just really happy with the way I handled everything and it was for sure one of the better matches I have played on clay throughout my career.

"To play the way I did today after a tough start to the tournament, I was just really, really happy with that."

Murray's struggles in the first two rounds seem a distant memory now.

How different it might have been had Murray not held his nerve two points from defeat against Radek Stepanek in the opening round.

It was clear how good he considered his chances to be here after beating Djokovic in the final of the Rome Masters a week before the tournament when he said of the Stepanek victory: "It could turn out to be one of the biggest wins of my career."

How right he was, and now he joins his 'big four' rivals Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in having reached the final at all four slams.

"It's big," said Murray of the achievement. "Especially with the guys who are around just now.

"It's not been easy. I lost three semis (at the French Open). I lost two to Rafa and one to Novak last year.

"So beating Stan, he's won this event before.

"The further he gets in tournaments he tends to play better as well. So to have done it against him means a lot.

"There are not many players who do that now because before three of the slams were played on grass and now they're on the different surfaces. It's not an easy thing."

If Murray is to go on to lift the trophy he will have to join Wawrinka and Nadal in denying Djokovic the title he craves more than any other.

All of the Scot's slam finals have been against either Djokovic or Federer.

He beat Djokovic to win the US Open and Wimbledon but has lost four times to him in Australia.

Murray said of his final chances: "Beating the best players gives you a boost but it's more the way I played which gives me more confidence.

"Sometimes you can play not a great match and win but today I played well and I think my game is in the right place now. Hopefully I can play another good one on Sunday."

Wawrinka was full of praise for Murray, saying: "I think Andy played so well today. He was the strongest on the court."

However, the Swiss is still backing Djokovic to win the final.

Wawrinka added: "When Novak's at his best he can beat anybody. I think he will win the match."

Djokovic has played four days in a row because of the awful weather earlier this week.

However, he did not need to expend too much energy in a crushing 6-2 6-1 6-4 victory over first-time semi-finalist Dominic Thiem.

The Serbian said: "It was my best performance of the tournament.

"I was hoping after the long fourth round I was going to start playing better as the tournament progresses and that's what's happening now.

"So I'm very pleased with the way things are going."

I was really happy with the way I handled everything - it was one of the better matches I've played in my careerAndy Murray

CAPTION(S):

<B Andy Murray waits patiently for a group of fans to take a selfie with him after yesterday's victory against against Stan Wawrinka

<BAndy Murray concentrates on a backhand shot as he reached the French Open Final for the first time by defeating Wawrinka in four sets
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 4, 2016
Words:930
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