Britain’s Andy Murray will look to move a step closer to grand-slam glory today when he takes on 12th seed Fernando Gonzalez at the French Open with a semi-final place at stake.
Murray’s half of the draw at Roland Garros has really opened up following the unexpected exit of top seed and title favourite Rafael Nadal on Sunday.
With fourth seed Novak Djokovic also out and Roger Federer stuttering through the early rounds, Murray will know he may not have a better chance to win the clay major.
In beating Marin Cilic on Sunday, the Scot became only the third British man in the Open era, after Roger Taylor and Tim Henman, to make the quarter-finals here.
Henman reached the last four in 2004 and to equal that achievement, Murray will have to overcome practice partner Gonzalez, who has arguably the biggest forehand in the game.
“I’ll have to play a very consistent match and keep the ball deep,” said the 22-year-old.
“You don’t want to leave the ball in the middle of the court against him. He’s got a huge forehand.”
Murray, the third seed, last played Gonzalez in 2006 when he recovered from going two sets to one down to win a tight US Open third-round match.
Gonzalez won their only other meeting, in Basle a year earlier.
Eight of Gonzalez’s 11 career titles have come on clay, the most recent coming this year in Vina del Mar. The Chilean won the boys’ singles at the French Open in 1998 too, so he has pedigree on the terre battue.
“It will be very tough,” said Murray. “He loves playing on clay. And he’s won all of his matches very easily so far.”
Gonzalez has yet to drop a set this tournament. The same cannot be said of second seed Federer, who continues to limp along in his quest for an elusive Roland Garros crown.
The Swiss has been installed as favourite to land the title but he almost joined Nadal on the Roland Garros scrapheap yesterday, the Swiss recovering from two sets down to defeat Germany’s Tommy Haas 6-7 (4/7) 5-7 6-4 6-0 6-2 in a fourth-round thriller.
He was not at his best but Roger Federer denied there was any extra pressure on him now arch rival Nadal is no longer in the running.
“The focus wasn’t on that,” he said.
“Of course the dream scenario is to beat Rafa here in the final but I’ve got to concentrate on my part of the draw.”