Saturday 17 March 2018

Murray sets up tasty Gasquet tie

Andy Murray returns a shot on his way to beating John Isner at the French Open. Photo. Jacky Naegelen/Reuters
Andy Murray returns a shot on his way to beating John Isner at the French Open. Photo. Jacky Naegelen/Reuters

Martyn Harman

Perennial Grand Slam title contenders Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray were joined in the French Open quarter-finals by two unfamiliar faces yesterday as the Parisian clay continued to turn up unexpected plot lines.

It was no surprise to see Swiss title-holder Wawrinka beat Viktor Troicki although it took a while for the third seed to subdue the Serb 7-6(5) 6-7(7) 6-3 6-2.

Murray's 7-6(9) 6-4 6-3 defeat of John Isner was entirely predictable, even if the second seed had to save three set points in the opener before extending his career record over the towering American to 6-0 in clinical fashion.

Three-time semi-finalist Murray will play Richard Gasquet, the sole surviving French singles player, who had the crowd in raptures on Court Philippe Chatrier with a scintillating 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-2 win over Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori.

Ninth-seeded Gasquet, 29, collapsed joyously on his back after sealing victory and a long-overdue place in the last eight of his home Grand Slam for the first time in 13 attempts.

"The crowd put the pressure on him," Gasquet said on court as the crowd chanted 'Richard, Richard'. "It was probably not easy for him to play with that crowd."

He will need them in full voice again against Murray.

"Obviously, the atmosphere (against Gasquet) will be tough, but I don't mind that," said Murray. "I played a number of times against French players here in difficult atmospheres and I managed OK."

Who would have thought a left-hander named Albert Ramos-Vinolas, rather than nine-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal, would be leading the Spanish men's challenge?

But that is the reality after Nadal pulled out with a damaged left wrist on Friday and Ramos-Vinolas, a first-round loser for the last four years, crushed eighth-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic 6-2 6-4 6-4 on a damp, murky day.

Fifty-fifth ranked Ramos-Vinola's reward for his endeavour is a last-eight clash with Wawrinka.

Wawrinka and Murray are also looking ominously in the groove as they move towards a likely semi-final showdown.

Wawrinka, taken to five sets in the first round, is on an eight-match winning streak on clay having claimed the Geneva title in the build-up, while Murray made it nine in a row against Isner, having won the title in Rome.

Irish Independent

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