Home hope Gasquet awaits Murray in French Open quarters
Britain’s Andy Murray knows he’ll be fighting both Richard Gasquet and the crowd when the second seed targets a fourth appearance in the French Open semi-finals on Tuesday.
Murray struggled through the early rounds at Roland Garros, squeezing past Radek Stepanek and French wildcard Mathias Bourgue in back-to-back five-setters, but the world number two has looked far more at ease since.
Murray swept past Ivo Karlovic in three sets before seeing off another big server in American John Isner to set up a quarter-final clash with ninth-seeded Frenchman Gasquet.
“I’m pumped to be in the quarters of a slam. Obviously the atmosphere will be tough, but I don’t mind that,” said Murray, who has won his last five meetings with Gasquet.
“I played a number of times against French players here in difficult atmospheres and I managed okay. So I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
Twice Murray and Gasquet have faced off at Roland Garros, with the Briton prevailing both times, including in the 2010 first round when he recovered from two sets to love down.
It was 13th time lucky for Gasquet who reached the last eight in Paris for the first time on Sunday after downing Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori in four sets.
But the former French Open boys champion acknowledged Murray represents a formidable challenge in his bid to become the first Frenchman to win a Grand Slam since Yannick Noah in 1983.
“He’s a huge fighter. He runs all over the place. You never get a free point. He has the best physical condition on the tour with (Novak) Djokovic,” said Gasquet.
“He’s a big competitor. And he always hangs in there and wins these matches. Makes very few mistakes, is very good at defence, too.
“He’s confident. He had a surprisingly difficult start to this tournament. But he played very well in Rome and Madrid. He’s the No. 2 player, and for good reason. Because he’s a great player.
“I need to play very offensive, because if not, it will be difficult for me to win. Of course he will be the favourite, but I have nothing to lose.”
Defending champion Stan Wawrinka faces unheralded 28-year-old Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas for a place in the last four.
The 55th-ranked Spaniard, who hadn’t won a match at Roland Garros since 2011, stunned Milos Raonic 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 in the fourth round to continue his shock run.
Wawrinka will fancy his chances against an opponent he’s beaten in all six of their previous encounters, but the Swiss third seed remained cautious despite thrashing Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-1 in Geneva earlier this month.
“It was a really easy match, but before there were always some tough matches,” said Wawrinka, who claimed his third title of the season in Geneva.
“He’s a really dangerous player. He’s a player that maybe from my side, yeah, you don’t think he’s going to be that tough, but when you play against him he’s a tough player to play.”
Ramos-Vinolas had never reached the third round of a major tournament before his breakout performance in Paris, with the left-hander’s confidence seemingly undimmed by the heavy defeat inflicted by Wawrinka a fortnight ago.
“This is another tournament. It’s another opportunity for me to fight.”