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French Open: Murray exposes Gasquet's clay feet


Andy Murray serves on his way to victory against Richard Gasquet at Roland Garros yesterday

Andy Murray serves on his way to victory against Richard Gasquet at Roland Garros yesterday

Andy Murray serves on his way to victory against Richard Gasquet at Roland Garros yesterday

Andy Murray recovered from a dreadful first set to beat Richard Gasquet 1-6 6-4 6-1 6-2 and reach the quarter-finals of the French Open for the third time in his career.

The key moments came in the ninth game of the second set when the world No 4 saved two break points. By the time Gasquet won another game he was 5-0 down in the third.

At that stage, Murray was playing superbly and he raced through the fourth set to book a last-eight clash against in-form Spaniard David Ferrer.

Murray was given a taste of what to expect from the Parisian crowd when he was booed on to court, the Scot responding with a grin. Gasquet may have been on home clay but the weather -- cold, windy and with rain in the air -- was decidedly Scottish.

However, the fourth seed could hardly have made a worse start, losing the first seven points and then serving a double fault to hand Gasquet a break.

Murray earned warm applause from the crowd in the next game after retrieving two smashes and going on to win the point, but Gasquet eventually held for a 3-0 lead.

Gasquet charitably gave away a point by hitting the net in the act of putting away a smash, but in the sixth game he broke the Murray serve again, the 25-year-old dumping a series of tame forehands into the net.

That left the Frenchman serving for the set and, although Murray saved two set points, Gasquet took the third with a trademark backhand winner.

In many ways it was par for the course. Murray and Gasquet have met three times in Grand Slams before, twice at Wimbledon and once here, and on two occasions the Scot has fought back from two sets to love down to win.

As a junior it was Gasquet rather than Murray or Novak Djokovic who was touted as the big star, but the Frenchman's mental strength has never matched his talent. Murray at least made a better start in the second set but Gasquet, who beat Murray in Rome recently, was playing very well.

The Scot was mixing the pace up, trying to get Gasquet out of his rhythm, and it worked in the sixth game as Murray brought up three break points, taking the first with a searing forehand.

That break was given straight back, but Murray then showed his fighting spirit to save two more break points with shots right on the baseline, celebrating with a pump of the fist.

And he got his reward in the next game. Gasquet saved one set-point but Murray brought up another with a forehand winner, and this time the Frenchman threw in a very costly double fault.

It was a tight, tense set, the kind Murray is more used to winning than Gasquet, and the fourth seed looked keen to stamp his authority on the match at the start of the third.

Once again some great retrieving earned its rewards, Gasquet framing a smash to concede another break point, and for a second successive service game he ended it with a double fault.

That was a fourth successive game for Murray, who suddenly looked completely in control and wasted no time in wrapping up the set with an ace.

Gasquet badly needed a good start to the fourth set, and he celebrated exuberantly when he came through a close service game. But he was making a lot more errors than winners now and Murray broke again in the third game with a backhand return drilled right onto the sideline.

The Scot virtually skipped back to his chair and nailed a forehand winner to break again at the next opportunity.

Gasquet had a final flourish, saving two match points to deny Murray a sixth game in a row as the crowd tried their best to help their man, but it was in all vain as Murray served it out in two and a half hours.


Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal won 17 games in a row to reach the quarter-finals --and then apologised to his opponent for the one-sided nature of the scoreline. The defending champion's 6-2 6-0 6-0 victory over Juan Monaco meant he has lost only 19 games in his first four matches -- the fewest at Roland Garros since Guillermo Vilas in 1982.

Nadal now meets 12th seed Nicolas Almagro, who knocked out eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic 6-4 6-4 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals for the third time in five years.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vowed to "fight like a lion" against world No 1 Novak Djokovic today after battling his way into the last eight for the first time. The entertaining Frenchman was back on court yesterday afternoon against Stanislas Wawrinka after darkness forced an end to play on Sunday with Tsonga 4-2 up in the fifth.

Wawrinka immediately retrieved the break but Tsonga struck again with the Swiss player serving to stay in the match to clinch a 6-4 7-6 (8-6) 3-6 3-6 6-4 victory.

Sixth seed David Ferrer, who has been the most impressive player apart from Nadal, outclassed fellow Spaniard Marcel Granollers 6-3 6-2 6-0 to set up his meeting with Murray.

French Open,

Live, Setanta Irl, 1.0, ITV 4, 12.30

Irish Independent