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French Open: Andy Murray win sets up Rafael Nadal crunch

By Eleanor Crooks

Andy Murray will play Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals of the French Open after a remarkable five-set victory over Gael Monfils.

Having won the first two sets comfortably, Murray looked destined to have to finish the match today when Monfils fought back to level the match.

The Scot did not want to start the fifth set with the light fading but ended up winning it in just 24 minutes to clinch a 6-4 6-1 4-6 1-6 6-0 victory at 9.41pm.

Murray said: "It was in very tough conditions. It was very windy at the start. I started well but when the wind died down he began to play so much better.

"He's such an amazing athlete. I was lucky that he started the fifth set badly."

The Wimbledon champion has only made the semi-finals at Roland Garros once before, losing in straight sets to eight-time champion Nadal in 2011.

"He's got very good memories on this court," said Murray. "I'll need to recover very well but I'm just happy to be in the semi-finals and I'll try to play my best tennis."

Murray was ready to be the villain for the French crowd, who have been waiting for a home men's champion since Yannick Noah's triumph in 1983.

Murray knows all about such expectations, of course, and had a smile on his face as he walked out to some jeers but plenty of cheers.

It was the Scot's first match this tournament on Court Philippe Chatrier, Roland Garros' main stage, and he could not have made a better start.

Murray was striking the ball if anything even better than he had in his fourth-round win over Fernando Verdasco.

He stormed into a 3-0 lead with a flurry of winners only to be pegged back by Monfils.

In the seventh game Monfils even played a left-handed forehand to help him reach the ball, and made the shot.

But Murray was the one in control of most of the rallies and a combination of a backhand down the line and a forehand cross court helped him break the Monfils serve again and take the set.

Murray looked like a man completely sure of his game plan and, as in the first set, he raced out to a 3-0 lead in the second.

That quickly became 5-0 and the Scot should have chalked up a love set but fluffed three set points.

Having dominated the set, clinching it proved a little tortuous for Murray, who missed four more set points in a long service game.

There was then controversy when a ball fell out of Murray's pocket and, after Monfils protested the umpire Jake Garner's call of let with the crowd whistling and jeering, the seventh seed gave the point to his opponent.

The momentum shift began in the first game of the third set, when Monfils saved three break points.

Murray did the same in the next game but it was a tight set, both men holding their serves, and when Monfils made it 5-4, he whipped the crowd up.

Both men knew this was a big moment and, although Murray saved two set points, he could not save a third.

The Scot now seemed to be struggling physically and Monfils dominated the fourth set to level the match from two sets down.

Murray wanted to stop there, telling tournament referee Stefan Fransson "that's ridiculous" when it was put to him that he had to carry on.

Having held the opening game, Murray let out a yell of 'Come on', but the Scot surely would not have expected what followed, with Monfils winning just seven points in the final set as Murray clinched the decider 6-0 to wrap up the victory.

Belfast Telegraph

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