Murray too much for upset-minded foe
French Open’s No. 1 seed takes control after early scare from error-prone Del Potro.
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.”
A DEJECTED Juan Martin del Potro gathers his thoughts at the net after losing the first set Saturday.