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Murray faces tough test with rising Russian star in his way

 

By Eleanor Crooks

Andy Murray will measure himself against one of the best of the next generation in the fourth round of the French Open.

The world number one might have expected to play John Isner in a repeat of last year's last-16 clash, but instead will face 21-year-old Russian Karen Khachanov.

Since Murray and Novak Djokovic rose to the top of the game more than a decade ago, the wait has gone on for a new generation to really make its mark.

The signs are that the time has finally arrived, with 20-year-old Alexander Zverev breaking into the top 10 and the likes of Nick Kyrgios, Borna Coric and now Khachanov rising up the ranks.

Murray said of the Russian: "I have never played a match against him, but I practised with him before he got on to the tour when he was like 350 (in the rankings), and he was really good. Big, strong guy. Generates a lot of power. He's also got a big serve."

Khachanov, born in Moscow but based in Barcelona, is through to the last 16 at a slam for the first time.

After beating Tomas Berdych in round two, he bounced back well from losing the third set to Isner to win 7-6 (7/1) 6-3 6-7 (5/7) 7-6 (7/3) in a match carried over from Saturday evening.

Standing 6ft 6in and with a swagger to match, Khachanov is part of a new breed of very tall but athletic players and is looking forward to having a crack at the world number one.

He said: "I think that is what we are looking for, to play on the big arenas like here, centre court, and to play against the world number one.

"I think it's going to be a good match and good experience for me. I will try to prepare and to do my best."

A Real Madrid fan, Khachanov prepared for the resumption of his match against Isner by watching the Champions League final and is also a keen chess player.

"When I was young, like from 10 to 12, I was having chess classes," he said. "So I like to play in my free time. It's one of my hobbies. I think it helps maybe."

"But mentally I feel pretty good just now. I'm working things out while I'm playing the matches, and that's a really, really important part of my game."

Rafael Nadal feels umpires must allow players to "breathe a little" after he was involved in the latest time violation controversy at Roland Garros yesterday.

A nine-time French Open champion and the hot favourite to win once again this year, Nadal breezed into the quarter-finals with a straight-sets thrashing of compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut, 6-1 6-2 6-2.

However, the Spaniard did receive two time violation warnings during the match from Carlos Ramos, the same umpire who incensed Novak Djokovic by enforcing a similar penalty in the Serbian's third-round victory over Diego Schwartzman.

"I have received pressure when I serve. Sometimes I feel I'm under pressure during the whole match," said Nadal.

"If you want to play well, you have to let players breathe a little. We're not machines that cannot think. That's my viewpoint."

Novak Djokovic had a straight-sets win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas to reach the quarter-finals.

After fighting back from two sets to one down to beat Diego Schwartzman in the third round, the defending champion was no doubt hoping for an easier evening.

He recovered from being a break down in the opening set and pulled away to win 7-6 (7/5) 6-1 6-3.

Belfast Telegraph

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