Murray falls to speedy Gonzalez

ANDY MURRAY admitted he was left helpless by Fernando Gonzalez’s booming forehand as the Chilean ended the Scot’s impressive run at the French Open at the quarter-final stage, the 12th seed Gonzalez powering his way to a 6-3 3-6 6-0 6-4 win.

The naturally-attacking Gonzalez can blow hot and cold but yesterday was one of his better days as he hit 45 winners to steamroller the third seed on a sun-kissed Philippe Chatrier court.

Murray acknowledged the man who he claims has the biggest forehand in tennis deserved the victory.

“No-one’s hit the ball that big. If that happens, sometimes you’ve got to say, ‘too good’,” he said.

“If you look at some of the shots he’s hit, he’s hitting forehands from a metre wide of the tramlines on some points – and hitting winners off them.

“Even if you try to hit a ball to his backhand, he runs around and spanks a winner. You can’t do a whole lot about that.”

Gonzalez will take on 23rd seed Robin Soderling in the semi-finals after the Swede, who dumped out top seed and reigning champion Rafael Nadal in the fourth round, continued his amazing Roland Garros journey by sweeping aside previously in-form 10th seed Nikolay Davydenko.

Soderling won 6-1 6-3 6-1 in an hour and 41 minutes on Suzanne Lenglen court and if he maintains this kind of level, he will be very difficult to stop.

“I have to say it was a little tougher than the score suggests,” said Soderling. “I always knew I could play really, really good tennis when I’m on top of my game. I just needed to tell myself not to lose concentration.”

Soderling also revealed he received a congratulatory text from Bjorn Borg after his win over Nadal, who last year equalled the legendary Swede’s record of four straight Roland Garros titles.

Meanwhile, Dominika Cibulkova will face top seed Dinara Safina for a place in the French Open final after thrashing former world number one Maria Sharapova 6-0 6-2.

The Slovakian 20th seed was in blistering form, making just a solitary unforced error in the first set, and belied the fact that she had never made it past round three at Roland Garros to simply blow Sharapova off the court.

Cibulkova made the big impression early on, breaking three times in succession to blitz Sharapova 6-0 in an opening set which lasted only half an hour.

Two more breaks followed and the dreaded double-bagel was only averted when Sharapova finally got on the board in the 12th game of the match.

Pride was salvaged but the match was irretrievable, and Cibulkova served out at the next time of asking.

“I don’t really care about numbers,” said Sharapova after the worst Grand Slam defeat of her career. “It’s either a ‘W’ or an ‘L’, and I prefer ‘W’. You know, if it’s 7-6 in the third and you come out with a loss, I mean, what’s the difference?”

She added: “I guess you could only ask your body to do so much. Everything fell a little short today. The pace wasn’t there on my strokes, and I was five steps slower.”

Cibulkova said: “It was, I think, more surprising for the people who don’t know me, maybe for the crowd, but today I was playing really solid.”

Earlier, Safina came from a set down to defeat 19-year-old Belarussian Victoria Azarenka.

The Russian was given the runaround in the first set and was at one stage being held at 4-4 in the second, but recovered her poise to eke out a 1-6 6-4 6-2 victory on Philippe Chatrier court.

“She was playing well, and basically I was not doing anything to complicate it,” Safina said of her slow start.

“I started to fight point by point just trying to change a little bit.

“She started to miss much more. I think she was missing way too much today.

“In the third set, every time I was a break up, but I was always struggling to hold my serve. I’m not really happy with my game today.”

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