Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will resume a gripping French Open semi-final at Roland Garros on Saturday with the world No 1 two sets to one up.
Djokovic was leading Murray 6-3 6-3 5-7 3-3 when the match had to be delayed until Saturday by bad weather.
The Serbian will have been much the happier to come off – he dominated the first two sets but the momentum was very much with Murray when the grey clouds arrived, the Brit clawing his way back into the match in a dramatic fourth set.
Earlier, Stanislaw Wawrinka ended French hopes of a first home finalist since Henri Leconte in 1988 by beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3 6-7 (7-1) 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 – and he must wait to find out who he will play in Sunday’s final.
At no point in the first two sets did Murray look like he would be able to end his worryingly long losing run against Djokovic – he has lost their last seven meetings – or become the first Brit since Bunny Austin in 1937 to reach the men’s final in Paris.
Murray had his chances in the first set – he was 30-0 up on Djokovic’s serve at 3-3, but the world No 1, who looked distracted and irritable, held on.
Djokovic complained of feeling unwell at the changeover, and called on the trainer – and in the next game broke Murray to love. He made it nine points in a row in the next game and although Murray finally ended that run, Djokovic served out to clinch the first set.
In the second set, Djokovic broke for a 3-2 lead, with Murray getting increasingly frustrated and angry with himself and the Serb’s antics. Djokovic was regularly mopping his brow, wincing and stretching – whether the ailments were real, or just play-acting, it was not clear.
But Djokovic did the same thing in the Australian Open final earlier this year, and it clearly got to Murray then. The Scot was broken again at 3-5 to concede the second set – and at that point, he looked a beaten man.
Djokovic had two break points at 3-3 in the third, but Murray staved them off gutsily, and although he was hanging in by his fingernails, there was little to suggest he was capable of winning the set.
The turning point of the set came at 5-5, Djokovic serving, 15-0 up. The Serb lobbed Murray and approached the net, but the Scot scampered back, and somehow passed him with a stunning drive. Inspired, he broke the world No 1, and served out to love to win the set 7-5.
Djokovic held serve in the opening game of the fourth and roared into a 40-0 lead – three break points. But Murray somehow held, winning the second point of the comeback after a sensational 34-shot rally, and another after a 24-shot exchange. And in the next game, he broke Djokovic to love with some stunning tennis that left the Serb utterly bewildered.
Back came the world No 1, but he was given a big helping hand by Murray who dumped the most routine of smashes into the net to hand Djokovic two break points. Djokovic nailed the second of them to level it at 2-2. Djokovic held, and then put Murray under huge pressure in the Scot’s next service game, earning two break points. But once again, Murray dug deep, saving the first with an ace and the second when Djokovic dumped a backhand in the net – and Murray held again – 3-3.
Then the officals stepped in – a storm was about to hit Paris and the players were forced off. They will resume on Saturday, with Murray very much in the match