Murray moves into quarter-finals

Andy Murray, pictured, defeated Fernando Verdasco to reach the French Open quarter-finals (AP)

Andy Murray, pictured, defeated Fernando Verdasco to reach the French Open quarter-finals (AP)

First published in National Sport News © by

Andy Murray pulled off one of his best French Open victories to reach the quarter-finals at Roland Garros for the fourth time.

The Wimbledon champion survived a wobble in the third set to defeat 24th seed Fernando Verdasco 6-4 7-5 7-6 (7/3).

In the last eight Murray will play his old junior rival Gael Monfils, who delighted the home fans with an unusually straightforward victory over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Murray said: "It was an u nbelievable atmosphere, I really enjoyed myself on the court. We played some great points, he fought extremely hard in the third set.

"I was a bit nervous at the end but I'm glad I managed to get through. I was trying to play more aggressive because I knew I'd be a little bit tired in my legs. Thankfully the balls were going in; that doesn't always happen.

"I played Gael for the first time when I was 10 and he was 11. He's one of the best players to watch, he's so entertaining, and he's a really nice guy. I'm really looking forward to it."

Murray has a great record against left-handers, a legacy of growing up playing against brother Jamie, and had beaten Verdasco in nine of their 10 previous meetings.

But they had never met on clay, the Scot's weakest surface, and Murray's Wimbledon dream would have been snuffed out in the quarter-finals last year had Verdasco capitalised on a two-set lead.

A big question was how well would Murray pull up physically after his two-day, five-set battle against Philipp Kohlschreiber in round three.

He seemed to be moving well but Verdasco was on his game straight away and Murray dug deep to save three break points in his first service game.

The Scot then broke for 2-1 with a trademark backhand pass but Verdasco hit straight back when Murray netted a backhand.

Both men were hitting thumping groundstrokes, with Murray certainly stepping up a level from his first three matches.

And he got his reward with a break for 5-4, pinning Verdasco on his less-favoured backhand and then serving out the set to love.

Murray rather let Verdasco off the hook at 0-30 in the opening game of the second set, and then just missed a backhand on break point two games later.

The Spaniard was having to work hard to stay with his opponent but Murray was not making the most of the openings that came along.

He had 0-30 at 4-4 but Verdasco held on, saving a break point when Murray missed a return off a second serve.

The seventh seed kept the pressure on, though, and finally took a chance in the 11th game, Verdasco netting a low backhand volley.

He had not really been under pressure on his own serve all set but that changed when he served for it.

He won an epic rally to bring up set point but Verdasco let out two full-blooded roars as he nailed a forehand return and then a smash.

Murray missed a second chance but placed a backhand just inside the line on the third.

Having taken 11 games to break in the second set, Murray only needed one in the third, again dragging Verdasco all round the court until the Spaniard eventually cracked.

One thing Murray would not have been happy with was his break-point conversion, and after missing two for 3-0, five more went begging two games later.

That meant he had taken just four of 16 chances, and that became four from 19 two games later as Verdasco continued to hang on by his fingernails.

Murray sportingly gave that game to Verdasco after a serve had been called out and over-ruled, the Spaniard furious when umpire Pascal Maria initially ordered the point to be replayed.

Murray had not faced a break point since the opening set but he was made to pay for his missed chances when a double-fault gave Verdasco a chance and he took it to level at 4-4.

The 30-year-old was really fired up and took the set to a tie-break, where he fought back from 3-0 to level at 3-3.

But Murray won the next three points to give himself a first match point, which he took with a routine smash after two hours and 54 minutes.

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