Andy Murray tames big game of John Isner to reach last eight at Roland Garros
IT took a while, but as we head toward the business end of the French Open, things seem to be going smoothly at last for Andy Murray. His 7-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over the American John Isner yesterday put Murray through to the quarter-finals here for the sixth time in his career.
And to make his day that much more enjoyable, he then watched fifth seed Kei Nishikori, his scheduled quarterfinal opponent, go out last night to Richard Gasquet as the Frenchman made the last eight for the first time in his career.
On this form, Gasquet will present a tough examination but Murray leads their head-to-head record 8-4 and has won the last five, while he has beaten him in all three of their meetings here.
Gasquet will occupy his mind a little more today as he hones his practice – weather permitting – but yesterday was all about taming the big game of Isner and he did it well.
It wasn’t easy, with Isner having three set points in the opening set but for the second match in a row, Murray did not lose his serve and his battles in the first two rounds have now surely been put to the back of his mind.
“I feel fine now,” said Murray, whose two hour, 40-minute win was interrupted for an hour by rain. The matches [against Ivo Karlovic in the last round and Isner yesterday] weren’t physically draining. Mentally they can be challenging because you get so few chances. There are a lot of points that feel very important against Ivo and against John, but physically I feel fine.
“But between now and the end of the tournament, it’s completely different matches. A lot more rhythm, longer points, more physical matches.”
The pivotal moment in the match came when Murray, who had led 5-2 in the first-set tiebreak, stood to return the Isner serve at set point down, 5-6.
Sticking out a racket to get a backhand return into play, the Scot then guessed Isner would go to the backhand again with a mid-court forehand of his own and then rifled a backhand pass for a winner down the line.
Though Isner had two more set points, they were both on the Murray side and once he had taken the tiebreak 11-9, he was able to relax. One break in the 10th game of the second set and then, serving for the match at 5-3 in the third, he saved a break-back point with an ace and then two points later, another ace gave him victory.
“That set was was very important,” he admitted. “It could have gone either way, he had a few more chances than I did and I got a bit lucky on the set points he had.”
That we got as much play in as we did yesterday was a minor miracle given the weather forecast and today’s forecast again calls for significant periods of rain.
Murray was delighted to have secured his place in the last eight and won’t mind in the slightest should, say, Novak Djokovic not be able to complete his fourth-round match with Roberto Bautista Agut today.
“I’m pumped to be in the quarters of a slam,” said world No.2 Murray, chasing his first Roland Garros title.
“Obviously the atmosphere [against Gasquet] will be tough, but I don’t mind that. I played a number of times against French players here in difficult atmospheres and I managed okay.”
Gasquet will pose plenty of problems but if he gets through that, a clash with the defending champion Stan Wawrinka looks very likely after the Swiss stepped up a gear yesterday.
Sluggish in his five-set win over Lukas Rosol in round one, Wawrinka has improved with every round and looked impressive yesterday in beating Serbia’s Viktor Troicki 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 6-2.
He will now play Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain, a left-hander who upset eighth seed Milos Raonic – who had newly-signed coaching consultant John McEnroe in his player box – 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.
Jamie Murray’s hopes of winning back to back grand slam doubles titles were ended as he and Bruno Soares lost 7-6, 7-6 to India’s Leander Paes and Marcin Matkowski of Poland.
But Jamie still has a chance of success in the mixed as he and Chan Hao-Ching of Taipei, the No 1 seeds, reached the quarter-finals.
In the women’s event, world No 108 Shelby Rogers became the first American other than Serena and Venus Williams to reach the last eight since 2005 after she upset 25th seed Irina Camelia Begu of Romania 6-3, 6-4.
Fourth seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain cruised past former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 6-3, 6-4 but the matches involving Agnieszka Radwanska and Simona Halep were interrupted by rain and will resume today.
Andy Murray says he would like more information about the Zika virus before finalising his plans for this summer’s Olympic Games. “It is something I will speak to a couple of doctors about to get some advice,” Murray told the BBC. “I plan to go, for sure, but I need to get a little bit more information before making a decision.”
IN THE ZONE: Andy Murray kept his focus against John Isner despite a raininterrupted match against the American.