British Andy Murray. / AFP PHOTO / Gabriel BOUYS
Andy Murray downed longtime rival Juan Martin del Potro to reach the Roland Garros last 16 Saturday 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.
“I expected a very tough match. Whoever won that first set would have the momemtum 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 for the opener when the Argentine star narrowly miscued.
The 28-year-old slumped over the net and stayed bent over 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 had already summoned the doctor early in the second set, knew his challenge was over and he managed just 11 points in the third set.
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 at Roland Garros 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.
In the women’s event, France have three women in the last 16 for the first time in 23 years.
However, that success is overshadowed by a bitter feud between compatriots Alize Cornet and Caroline Garcia who will clash for a place in the quarter-finals.
Cornet reached the last 16 for just the second time with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Polish ninth seed Agnieszka Radwanska who lost all her seven service games.
Garcia, seeded 28, made the fourth round of a Slam for the first time with a 6-4, 4-6, 9-7 win over Taiwan’s world number 109 Hsieh Su-Wei.
Those wins guaranteed the home nation will have at least one quarter-finalist in Paris for the first time since Marion Bartoli in 2011.
However, Cornet admitted that her relationship with Garcia has virtually broken down.
“I think that the relationship is not very good,” said 27-year-old Cornet.
“I think she may have a grudge against us, so she’s not ready to talk with me, so I don’t think that it will be good to talk to her, because we are playing against each other.”
Garcia fell out with her teammates earlier this year after she pulled out of a Fed Cup tie.Romanian third seed and 2014 runner-up Simona Halep sealed her place in the fourth round with a 6-0, 7-5 win over Russia’s Daria Kasatkina.
Halep, 25, raced through the opening set against 26th seed Kasatkina but needed to save four set points in the second before clinching victory.Halep will face Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro for a place in the quarter-finals.
Suarez Navarro, the 21st seed and a two-time quarter-finalist, made the fourth round for the fifth time.She eased past Russian 14th seed Elena Vesnina 6-4, 6-4 in a match which featured a 17-minute service game, punctuated by 11 deuces, for the Russian in the second set.