Mur­ray too much for up­set-minded foe

French Open’s No. 1 seed takes con­trol af­ter early scare from er­ror-prone Del Potro.

Los Angeles Times - - INSIDE BASEBALL -

PARIS — Juan Martin del Potro frit­tered away four chances to claim a grip­ping open­ing set against No. 1 Andy Mur­ray at the French Open, in­clud­ing one with a “How did that hap­pen?!” dou­ble-fault in a tiebreaker.

Then, on Mur­ray’s third set point of his own, del Potro made an­other mis­take, push­ing one of his in­tim­i­dat­ing, grunt-ac­com­pa­nied fore­hands wide. Af­ter walk­ing up to check the ball’s mark on the clay — a line judge and the chair um­pire con­firmed it was out — del Potro leaned for­ward on the net, head bowed, the very pic­ture of de­spair.

He re­mained there for sev­eral sec­onds, de­lay­ing the court-sweep­ers’ be­tween-set du­ties.

Even­tu­ally, del Potro went to his side­line seat and cov­ered his face with a white towel. That set was gone and, soon enough, his first ap­pear­ance since 2012 at Roland Gar­ros would be over en­tirely with a 7-6 (8), 7-5, 6-0 loss to Mur­ray in the third round.

“Too much frus­tra­tion,” said del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open cham­pion, who has en­dured a se­ries of op­er­a­tions on his left wrist, mak­ing two-handed back­hands prob­lem­atic. “I couldn’t be­lieve I lost that set.”

Nei­ther, re­ally, could Mur­ray, who no­ticed how crest­fallen his opponent was af­ter that vi­tal set. It lasted nearly 11⁄2 hours, filled with ex­tended ral­lies and ter­rific shot­mak­ing.

“Look, re­gard­less of how some­one re­acts, nec­es­sar­ily,” Mur­ray said, “you still have to ex­pect that they are go­ing to come out and start the (next) set strong.”

But un­der a cloud-filled sky at Court Philippe Cha­trier, Mur­ray was look­ing more and more like the topranked player that he is.

“I’m start­ing to feel bet­ter,” Mur­ray said. “I had strug­gled the last six or seven weeks com­ing in.”

Af­ter the nearly three­hour tus­sle in a re­match of the 2016 Rio Olympics fi­nal he won, Mur­ray de­clared the last two sets “def­i­nitely” the best he’s played on clay this sea­son. His ma­jor ti­tles have come on faster sur­faces at Wim­ble­don and the U.S. Open, but Mur­ray was the French Open run­ner-up last year.

The 2015 cham­pion in Paris, Stan Wawrinka, joined Mur­ray in the fourth round, a 7-6 (2), 6-0, 6-2 win­ner against 28th-seeded Fabio Fognini.

Next for Wawrinka: No. 15 Gael Mon­fils or No. 24 Richard Gas­quet, a pair of French­men whose match was sus­pended in the first set Satur­day be­cause of rain that washed out play in the evening.

Other men ad­vanc­ing be­fore the down­pour: 2014 U.S. Open cham­pion Marin Cilic, Kevin An­der­son and Fer­nando Ver­dasco.

Vic­to­ries by Al­ize Cor­net and Caro­line Gar­cia gave France three women in the fourth round of the French Open for the first time since 1994 (Kristina Mlade­n­ovic ad­vanced Fri­day). Cor­net and Gar­cia will meet for a quar­ter­fi­nal berth guar­an­teed to go to some­one from the host coun­try. Also into the fourth round: 2014 run­ner-up Si­mona Halep and for­mer No. 1 Caro­line Woz­ni­acki. Four women’s matches didn’t be­gin be­fore the wet weather.

Mur­ray ver­sus del Potro pro­vided the most en­tic­ing matchup, a pair of past ma­jor champs pro­vid­ing high­qual­ity play and in­tense com­pe­ti­tion.

Del Potro lauded Mur­ray’s ad­just­ments as the match wore on, say­ing: “Andy is one of the smartest guys on the cir­cuit, and he knew what my weak points were.”

Christophe Ena Associated Press

A DE­JECTED Juan Martin del Potro gath­ers his thoughts at the net af­ter los­ing the first set Satur­day.

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