Andy Murray isn’t the sort to look for consolation facts after a defeat but there is no doubt recent weeks have seen his form revitalised.
Murray – his injury troubles of last year behind him – rebounded from losing the opening two sets to force a deciding set in his third appearance in a French Open semi-final at Roland Garros.
But world number one Novak Djokovic, seeking to complete his career Grand Slam in Paris, proved too strong when it really mattered progressing 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 5-7, 6-1 to take his unbeaten run to 28 matches.
He goes on to face Stan Wawrinka on Sunday while Murray resets his sights on his favoured grass court season, with Queen’s Club followed by Wimbledon his new focus.
But the 78-year wait for a British men’s finalist in Paris goes on, though, on this evidence, Murray should have cause for confidence he could erase another British tennis record.
“I tried my hardest to get back into the match but unfortunately I could’t sustain that level for long enough and Novak played better tennis than me at the end of the match,” he said.
“It’s difficult to play your best tennis for long period, there are ups and down in every match. I didn’t play my best for the first two sets but got myself into it and gave myself an opportunity. But when my level dropped, Novak raised his.
“I played a loose game on my serve the first game of the last set with the new balls. I missed I think three balls long in that game. I think Novak relaxed a little bit after that and he hit the ball extremely accurately.
“It’s been my best clay court season and my best performance at the French Open, the two other times I’ve made it to the semi-finals I’ve lost in straight sets. It would been nice to make my first final here but Novak is in the form of his life.”
Djokovic admitted he feared the worst after Murray took the fourth set when play resumed at 3-3 following Friday night’s rain delay. He has now won eight straight matches against the British number one, a run stretching back to Murray’s victory in the 2013 Wimbledon final.
“I’m very glad that I managed to finish this match as a winner,” said Djokovic.
“I was hoping I can do it before, but I don’t think I have done too much wrong, even today in the fourth. He just came up with some great shots, great points.”