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French Open 2014: Murray survives but Federer flounders

Ernests Gulbis plays a forehand in his Third Round match.
by Leigh Walsh
Monday 2 June 2014

Wimbledon.com's highlights from the third round at the 2014 French Open at Roland Garros...

The headlines

The hardest thing about pulling off an upset is backing it up. Just ask Virginie Razzano, Lukas Rosol, Steve Darcis, Sergiy Stakhovsky, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Ana Ivanovic … the list goes on. So often, David has slain Goliath only to stumble at the next hurdle.

But not Garbine Muguruza. The Venezuelan-born Spaniard announced herself with a stunning upset of Serena Williams in the second round, but what has been equally impressive are her composed performances since. The 20 year old backed up her win over the world No.1 with straight-set victories over Anna Schmiedlova and Frenchwoman Pauline Parmentier, the latter of which came in front of a partisan crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier.

So what does she make of her unlikely run? “It’s a present,” said the humble world No.35. “I didn’t expect it.”

Up next for Muguruza is a quarter-final clash with Maria Sharapova, who reeled off nine games in a row to defeat the in-form Sam Stosur 3-6, 6-4, 6-0. Much like she did against Williams, the Spaniard goes in as the underdog but she’s remaining unfazed: “I’ve nothing to lose; everything to win.” 

Muguruza’s compatriot Carla Suarez Navarro also advanced to the final eight with a comfortable win over Ajla Tomljanovic, who upset world No.3 Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round. The 25-year-old Spaniard takes on the impressive youngster Eugenie Bouchard for a place in the semi-final. The remaining quarter-final places will be filled on Monday.

Four men booked their place in the quarter-final on Sunday: Novak Djokovic, Tomas Berdych, Milos Raonic and Ernests Gulbis, who posted the upset of the day to knock out Roger Federer in five sets.

It took just two games for Djokovic to pop a pin in the bubbling atmosphere on Chatrier during his highly anticipated fourth round contest with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Serb broke early and often to sweep past the French favourite in front of a deflated home crowd.

Next on Djokovic’s hit list is Milos Raonic, but judging on recent form the Canadian will likely provide a stern resistance for the Serb, who’s bidding for a maiden crown in Paris. The pair met as recently as last month in Rome, when Djokovic edged the contest in three tight sets.  

Raonic became the first Canadian in the Open Era to reach the quarter-final of a Grand Slam when he brushed past Marcel Granollers in straight sets. The 23-year-old has impressed since returning from an ankle injury at Indian Wells, reaching the quarter-final or better in six of his seven outings since.

The remaining quarter-final place in the bottom half was filled by Tomas Berdych. It was a case of three and easy for the Czech as he overcame John Isner with little difficulty. He faces Gulbis next.

Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and David Ferrer bid for their place in the quarter-finals today.

Biggest upsets

Gulbis said his five-set win over Federer was “probably the most important” of his career.

After promising much and offering little at the Grand Slams – he had failed to go beyond the third round at a major in six years – the Latvian has finally produced his best tennis on the big stage. And for those who follow the men’s game closely, it’s no surprise that Gulbis is starting to make headlines for his wins rather than his words alone.  

The 25-year-old, who is 12-0 on French soil this year, has clinched two titles in Marseille and Nice since the turn of the year and reached the quarter-finals or better nine times.

Here’s the man himself on his career turnaround:

“I did a lot of bad decisions career wise.  But the last two years it's been more or less the most consistent work I have done. Before that, you know, I had consistency, let's say, [for] three months, but then something happened or I got sick or went to Latvia and took stupid ten days off, you know, doing completely nothing. These kind of decisions were just wrong, you know.

“Thankfully it didn’t take me longer [to realise]. I’m jumping on the last train. I'm 25, so this was my last opportunity to be really successful.”

Best match

After two days, five sets and 41 games, Andy Murray finally overcame Philipp Kohlschreiber to reach the fourth round. The Scot kept his nerve to edge the German 12-10 in the fifth set after their match was halted at 7-7 due to fading light on the Saturday night. It marked the first time Murray had contested a match that went into “extra time” in the deciding set.

“Yeah, [I didn’t have] the best night’s sleep,” said Murray after the win. “When you have to come back and it's 7-7 and every single point counts, you're obviously going to be a bit anxious and a bit nervous when you go to sleep and when you wake up in the night.”

He’ll need to be well rested for his fourth round match-up with Fernando Verdasco. The Spaniard led Murray by two sets to love at Wimbledon last year before the Scot came storming back to clinch a memorable win. 

Gael Monfils’ 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, 0-6, 6-2 victory over Fabio Fognini is a candidate for both the worst and best match of the weekend. Whatever way you look at it, it was an entertaining, drama-filled encounter.

The match in itself was a microcosm of both players' careers, brilliant and baffling in equal measures. It was the Frenchman who prevailed, however, much to the delight of the local support. He plays Guillermo Garcia-Lopez next.

Unsung hero

While seeds have been uprooted all over the women’s draw Simona Halep has remained firmly planted, sweeping aside her opening three opponents for the loss of just 11 games.

The Romanian’s run has gone relatively under the radar due in large part to the big-name upsets that occurred in the first week. But the world No. 4 is the highest ranked player in the draw and one of the favourites for the title, despite having never reached a major semi-final.

The spotlight is likely to shine brighter on Halep during the second week, but will she handle the heat?

They said

“I don’t think the tennis tour is the place to have friends. For me, it’s all competition. It’s not like we’re teammates” – Eugenie Bouchard likes to keep some distance between her and her fellow pros

“For me it's not about ups and downs.  It's more about saving my a** every day (laughter). To be honest, I just came here without preparation.  So, I'm, you know ... surviving” – An honest Gael Monfils tells it like it is

“Like I said, same question, I do not know, you guys.  I do not know” – Sloane Stephens responds to questions about why she produces her best tennis at Grand Slams

“I cannot tell you the exact way we work together, because I don't want you to discover everything, obviously. But we do have certain agreements and routines that we started respecting. Everybody's contributing in their own way to my performances and to my success. So I'm really glad that it's all fitting together, because it took a little bit of time” – Novak Djokovic explains how he works with both Boris Becker and Marian Vajda

“My relationship started out slow. It was very ugly in the beginning” – Maria Sharapova on the difficulties of adapting to clay 

Best tweet

Follow the French Open live on ITV and at rolandgarros.com


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20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.

20:19It was the wackiest of Wimbledons with the most unlikely of headline-makers: Sergiy Stakhovsky, Steve Darcis, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Kimiko-Date Krumm, Jerzy Janowicz, Sabine Lisicki, Marion Bartoli...

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