Andy Murray's in cruise control as he eases past Isner
It may be nearly three years since Andy Murray last won a Grand Slam title but you cannot argue with the 29-year-old Scot's consistency. By beating John Isner 7-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the fourth round of the French Open here Murray reached the quarter-finals for the 20th time in the last 21 Grand Slam tournaments he has contested.
Just as he had in the previous round against Ivo Karlovic, Murray gave a master class in how to play one of the game's big-serving giants. Isner, who is 6ft 10in tall, has never beaten Murray in their six meetings. Despite hitting 18 aces with his cannonball serve, the 31-year-old American again came unstuck against a player with one of the best returns in the business.
The match might have taken a different course if Isner had won a tense tie-break at the end of the first set in which he had three set points, but once Murray had his nose in front he pulled away. Murray, who has now won his last nine clay-court matches, broke only twice in the match, but regularly threatened Isner's serve in the last two sets, forcing a total of 10 break points.
The perfectionist that he is, Murray sometimes grew frustrated when he failed to convert break points. At one stage he described his own play as "absolute turnip", while at others he used even more colourful language. He was pleased, nevertheless, with the way he defended successfully all five break points against him, putting first serves in court on each occasion and twice hitting aces. In his sixth Roland Garros quarter-final - which is more than any British man in history has reached, beating Fred Perry's total of five - Murray will face France's Richard Gasquet, who enjoyed one of the finest wins of his career when he beat the world No 5, Kei Nishikori, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
Gasquet, who will be playing in the quarter-finals here for the first time, has lost seven of his 10 meetings with Murray, who has won all four of their matches at Grand Slam level.
The weather forecast for the day had not been good, but the rain was still holding off when Murray and Isner entered Court Suzanne Lenglen just before 3.30pm. However, the skies were a gloomy grey and there was plenty of moisture in the air.
Murray admitted later that the conditions were in his favour in that Isner's serve was not so effective in the cold and damp atmosphere, particularly after they returned to the court following a rain break and the balls got wetter and heavier.
As expected, it was a match of short, sharp rallies. Of the 234 points played, 169 were of four shots or fewer and only 19 were of nine shots or more. Isner knew that he could not afford to be drawn into lengthy baseline rallies and went for his shots throughout. Murray, meanwhile, kept telling himself to remain focused on his task in the knowledge that he could not allow himself any lapses on his own serve.
"When you're returning his serve you have to be very explosive, very quick, and if you lose traction on your feet, it's very easy to tweak your groin or something," Murray said later. #
Stan Wawrinka, the defending champion, reached the quarter-finals thanks to an entertaining 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Viktor Troicki. It was Wawrinka's eighth successive victory on clay following his triumph in the Geneva Open last weekend.
Jamie Murray and his Brazilian partner, Bruno Soares, were beaten 7-6, 7-6 by Marcin Matkowski and Leander Paes in the third round of the men's doubles. It was the first defeat in Grand Slam competition for Murray and Soares following their victory at the Australian Open in January. However, Murray and Hao-Ching Chan won their second round match in the mixed doubles, beating Alla Kudryavtseva and Rohan Bopanna 2-6, 6-3, 10-8.