PARIS (Reuters) - With his glinting gold wedding band looped around the black laces of left shoe, Andy Murray had been an unstoppable force on clay this season.
So unstoppable that players of the caliber of nine-times French Open champion Rafa Nadal or seasoned campaigner David Ferrer tried and failed to ruin the newlywed’s honeymoon period on clay.
Novak Djokovic, however, was not as charitable in the French Open semi-final on Saturday and handed Murray his first defeat since his April 11 marriage to Kim Sears, thus ending the Scot’s 15-match winning streak on the red dust.
Murray’s hopes of ending Britain’s 80-year wait for men’s Roland Garros champion disappeared with a 6-3 6-3 5-7 5-7 6-1 defeat to Djokovic -- but it was not before he gave the world number one a mighty scare.
With the match suspended on Friday with the duo locked at 3-3 in fourth set, Murray’s roar echoed around Philippe Chatrier arena within minutes of Saturday’s resumption.
A Djokovic forehand error handed Murray the break in the 11th game and he brought his coach Amelie Mauresmo to her feet when he leveled at two sets all.
Hopes that the fifth set would turn out to be an epic battle of wills failed to materialize, however, as three scrappy unforced errors gifted Djokovic a 2-0 lead and from then on there looked to be only one winner -- the Serb ending Murray’s misery with his eighth ace.
“Obviously right now I‘m upset but I would say I probably played the best tennis in the major events, in the slams,” the 2013 Wimbledon champion said after being on the receiving end of an eighth successive defeat by Djokovic.
After struggling through 2014 having undergone back surgery the previous year, Murray was boosted by his recent run, which included winning back-to-back claycourt titles in Munich and Madrid.
“My game is back close to where it needs to be to winning slams,” added the third seed.
“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.”
Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Justin Palmer