Andy Murray downed longtime rival Juan Martin del Potro to reach the Roland Garros last 16 yesterday while French hopes were overshadowed by a bitter feud between two of their top stars.
World number one Murray triumphed 7-6 (10/8), 7-5, 6-0 for his seventh win in 10 meetings with Del Potro whose challenge fizzled out after squandering four set points in the 87-minute opener.
Murray, the runner-up to Novak Djokovic in 2016, will next face either John Isner of the United States or Russia’s Karen Khachanov. That match was one of six third round ties to be completed today after rain caused an early cancellation.
“Whoever won that first set would have the momentum as it would have been very difficult to come back in these heavy, slow conditions,” said Murray.
“He was playing much better than me in the first set. He had chances in the first set, he double faulted on set point.”
In a titanic first set, Del Potro wasted four set points then saved two before Murray pounced when the Argentine star narrowly miscued.
The 28-year-old slumped over the net and stayed that way during most of the changeover to catch his breath. Del Potro, playing in Paris for the first time in five years after a series of wrist injuries, was quickly a break down in the second set.
He retrieved it when Murray served for the set in the 10th game before handing the advantage straight back. Murray seized his lifeline, a fourth ace giving him a two-set lead.
Weary Del Potro
Weary Del Potro, who beat Murray in the Davis Cup semi-finals last year to avenge his defeat in the Olympics final, managed just 11 points in the third set.
“Andy proved he is a real No. 1,” said Del Potro. “He is one of the smartest guys on the circuit.”
Third seed Stan Wawrinka saved four set points in the opener before running away with 16 of the last 19 games to beat Italy’s Fabio Fognini 7-6 (7/2), 6-0, 6-2.
Former US Open champion Marin Cilic continued his smooth progress seeing off Feliciano Lopez, who was limited by a neck injury, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3.
Croatian seventh seed Cilic will next meet South Africa’s Kevin Anderson who matched his best run with a five-set win over Britain’s Kyle Edmund.
Anderson twice recovered from a set down to advance 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/4), 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 in just under four hours in a duel between two players born in Johannesburg.
The rain suspension was good news for Japanese eighth seed Kei Nishikori who was two sets to one up on South Korea’s Hyeon Chung but a double break down in the fourth set at 0-3.
Wawrinka, the 2015 champion in Paris, has yet to drop a set in the 2017 tournament, but this time he came close to conceding the first, which the unpredictable Italian failed to serve out before losing in a one-sided tiebreak.
Fognini, seeded 28, had won two of his three matches against top-five opponents this year, beating then fourth-ranked Kei Nishikori in Miami and number one Andy Murray in Rome.
But on a murky Court Suzanne Lenglen where the weather matched his own darkening mood, the Italian lost the second set without taking a game,
punctuating wild forehands with a clutch of double faults before getting treatment on his left
At 5-2 down in the third set, Fognini saved two match points before the 32-year-old Swiss fired down an unreturnable serve on the third.
“It was a very good first set and I was a bit hesitant, but after that I relaxed,” Wawrinka said courtside.
“I am playing very well at the moment but we all know how that can go in a grand slam... Each game gets more difficult.”
Wawrinka will play the winner of the all-French clash between Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet in the fourth round.
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