FRENCH OPEN

Andy Mur­ray tames big game of John Isner to reach last eight at Roland Gar­ros

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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.”

Pic­ture: PA

IN THE ZONE: Andy Mur­ray kept his fo­cus against John Isner de­spite a rain­in­ter­rupted match against the Amer­i­can.

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