Andy Murray will face his “favourite player to watch” Gael Monfils in the quarter-finals of the French Open after the Brit handed Fernando Verdasco a straight sets defeat.
Playing for a third consecutive day after his third round against Philipp Kohlschreiber was completed over two days, Murray put in a clinical display against Verdasco to reach the last eight in Paris for a fourth time in his last five trips to the French capital.
He’s relishing taking on Frenchman Monfils – who he first played as a 10-year-old in a tournament in Rouen, France – next in what promises to be an entertaining match.
“I’m looking forward to the next match with Gael, it should be a great atmosphere,” said Murray. “I first played Gael when I was 10 and he was 11. He’s an unbelievable entertainer. He’s one of my favourite players to watch. I think in the grand slams he’s played his best tennis here by far. He loves playing in front of a big crowd. He’s a great athlete.
“Maybe the best we have had in tennis. It’s going to be an exciting match. I’m sure there will be some fun rallies. There always is when I have played against him.”
Monfils made quick work of Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who dumped out world No3 Stan Wawrinka in the opening round, beating the Spaniard 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 but admits he is exhausted having come to Paris low on match practice due to injury.
“I’m tired. It’s not easy during the second week. It’s never easy. Even three sets. I think I lost a lot of energy through nerves. I will try to be better for Wednesday,” said Monfils.
Earlier on Court Philippe Chatrier, Rafa Nadal was merciless against 23-year-old Serbian Lajovic, who narrowly avoided the worst drubbing ever delivered by the Mallorcan.
Lajovic lost 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 – two games better than Juan Monaco’s defeat to Nadal here two years ago.
With music icon Prince in the stands and the abdication of King Juan Carlos on his mind, world No1 Nadal, who turns 28 on Tuesday, held to love in the opening game, although Lajovic appeared to have the right gameplan, being aggressive and coming to the net in the early points.
But Nadal was in a punishing mood, dictating with his forehand and breaking in the second game before opening up a 5-0 lead.
The Spaniard got his first set point on Lajovic’s serve with a drop shot but then sent a backhand long allowing the young Serb to finally get on the board.
It only delayed the inevitable though as Nadal served out the set and stormed to a 4-0 lead in the second.
Nadal faced three break points in the eighth game but saved all three before gaining a two-set advantage. A netted backhand smash gave the eight-time champion three break points in the third set opener and Lajovic double-faulted to hand Nadal the break.
He then breezed through the set to open up a 5-0 lead but was broken while serving for the match.
He responded immediately though, getting three match points in the following game and sealed the victory with a forehand return winner.
Nadal faces David Ferrer next in a rematch of last year’s final, after the world No5 beat big-hitting South African Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-1.
Andy Murray admits his clay court credentials may not be as strong as Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer, but the No7 seed believes he’ll be ready to take on Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the fourth round on Monday.
Both Murray and Verdasco had to complete their third round matches over two days although the Scot had a tougher task against German Philipp Kohlschreiber, who had come back from 2-4 down in the fourth set to force a decider on Saturday night before darkness suspended play at 7-7 in the final set.
Playing his first five-setter since his back surgery last October, Murray admitted he was struggling physically and had started cramping before the match was stopped.
The pair endured a sleepless night before stepping on court on Sunday for the restart and it was Murray who prevailed 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 12-10, in what resembled a penalty shootout of a football match.
“It could have been one of my best wins if I managed to close out the fourth set, because he's a very, very tough player,” said of Kohlschreiber.
Verdasco had a simpler time on court against Richard Gasquet. Their match was halted with the Spaniard leading by two sets, and he picked up where he left off yesterday, to advance 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 over the No12 seed.
The last time the Spaniard played Murray, he led by two sets to love in the Wimbledon quarter-finals last year before the tables were turned. Murray came back and went on to win the tournament.
“Not many people think I play particularly well on clay, so I would say that would give him (Verdasco) an edge there. He's obviously had some good results on clay,” said Murray, who has won 28 career titles but none of which have come on clay.
“But he plays well on every surface. It will be a tough match, for sure. When he plays, he plays well. He's incredibly talented, very, very tough player. I need to play a good match and do everything I can to be fresh for tomorrow.
“I feel like I can play good clay court tennis. But to win this event, you need to play great clay court tennis. That's something I haven't done yet.”
Meanwhile, Verdasco was thrilled with his performance against Gasquet but stressed that his main focus was to recover in time for his match against Murray.
The Madrid native is hoping to make the quarter-finals in Paris for the first time and his level so far this fortnight has been reminiscent of the form that saw him reach the Australian Open semi-finals in 2009.
Reminded of his five-setter against Murray at Wimbledon, Verdasco insists playing on clay is a different ball game.
“Every match is different. You can't compare a match in Wimbledon when he was playing home on grass with a match here in Paris. And it doesn't mean I'm going to win. Maybe he's going to win in three sets. All I'm saying is it's a totally different match.
“Playing Murray is never easy. He has wonderful tennis, and he won Grand Slams already, so I think he deserves all my respect. It's not going to be an easy match.
“My objective right now is to rest and prepare the best I can to play this match against Murray.
“I will try and give my all.I have nothing to lose. He is a favourite because of his ranking. So I will try and play my best tennis, and I hope I'll be as regular as I was yesterday or today.”
Sport360°'s tennis expert Reem Abulleil is in Paris for the 2014 French Open and will be providing regular updates throughout the tournament on this 'Live at Roland Garros' page.
So for all the latest breaking news, photos, social media activity, and everything else Roland Garros-related, this is the place to be… (timings below are Paris local time, two hours behind UAE time)
20:32 Svetlana Kuznetsova completes the women's quarter-finals lineup with a straight sets win over Lucie Safarova. The women's quarters look like this: Sharapova v Muguruza, Suarez Navarro v Bouchard, Halep v Kuznetsova, Errani v Petkovic.
** Juan Carlos Ferrero just walked into the press room… greeted the Spanish press. He's doing some media work himself for Spanish television.
19:54 Been out at the Perrier Village talking to the players taking part in the Legends Tournament. Spoke to Goran Ivanisevic (look out for his funny comments on Monfils), Carlos Moya, Conchita Martinez and had a lengthy round table discussion with Martina Navratilova.
In the meantime, Murray has reached his fourth quarter-final in Paris in his last five appearances here by taking out Verdasco and he will play the ever-entertaining Gael Monfils. "He's one of my favourite players to watch," said Murray of Monfils.
15:09 Rafael Nadal delivers a tough lesson to Serbia's Dusan Lajovic (who clearly didn't get enough advice from Djokovic) to advance ti the quarters 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 and set up a rematch of last year's final with David Ferrer. Two Spaniards through, will the other two join them?
14:00 Look who is at the French Open… Doesn't get much better than that!!
** Chatting with Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams' coach, and former umpire Adel Aref while watching Sandra Samir's match on Court 5
(Photo via Badreddine Tnani)
13:21 Hard not to feel happy for Petkovic after all the injuries she's been through. The German is back in a Grand Slam quarter-final after a three-year absence. Awaits Jelena Jankovic or Sara Errani in the last eight.
Nadal and Lajovic are up next on Chatrier.
12:35 David Ferrer serving for the second set against Kevin Anderson. There's a chance we get four Spaniards in the two quarter-finals of the top half of the draw if Ferrer, Rafael Nadal, Fernando Verdasco and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez all win their fourth round matches today.
12:30 Egypt's Sandra Samir exits the junior tournament from the first round, 6-2, 6-3 to Hungarian big-hitter Fanny Stollar.
(Photo via Badreddine Tnani)
** Players taking part in the Legends Tournament will be at a press conference tonight. Carlos Moya, Gaston Gaudio, Thomas Enqvist, Sergi Bruguera, Andrei Medvedev, Goran Ivanisevic, Martina Navratilova, Kim Clijsters, Conchita Martinez and many more will be in action this week in Paris.