French Open 2014: Andy Murray digs deep to beat Gael Monfils and set up the semi-final with Rafael Nadal

Scot sets up Roland Garros semi-final against Rafael Nadal

roland garros

Andy Murray has not lost a Grand Slam match from two sets up since he made his Centre Court debut at Wimbledon nine years ago but the Scot had to produce one of his grittiest comebacks to maintain that record here last night.

A remarkable French Open quarter-final ended in near darkness at 9.41pm local time with Murray beating Gaël Monfils, the local hero, 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 1-6, 6-0. After the Frenchman had levelled at two sets apiece, to the raucous delight of his home crowd, it seemed that he might be carried to victory on a wave of Parisian passion, but Murray held firm to play a brilliant deciding set.

With the light fading fast the match looked likely to spill over into a second day, but Murray dropped just seven more points to take the final set in only 24 minutes and complete his second five-set victory of the week. He will be grateful for a day of rest before facing Rafael Nadal in tomorrow's semi-finals.

Nadal, who beat Murray on the only other occasion when the Scot reached the semi-finals here three years ago, booked his place in the last four when he beat David Ferrer 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, 6-1 in a repeat of last year's final.

"He has got good memories on this court so it will be a very tough match," Murray said as he looked forward to facing the eight-times champion. "I will have to recover well and try to be as fresh as I can be."

Although the crowd were in full voice in the closing stages, as the chant of "Gaël! Gaël!" rang around Court Philippe Chatrier, Murray had done a splendid job in keeping them quiet for the first two sets. Frustrating Monfils by pulling him to all corners of the court, Murray won some of his games in near silence.

After rain had fallen for most of the day, it was 6.25pm by the time Murray hit the opening serve in his first appearance this year on the main show court. The sun was out, but by the second set more than half the court was in shadow. There was a stiff breeze and, with the temperature just 13C, organisers might have been tempted to offer mulled wine rather than chilled Chablis in the hospitality suites.

Murray began in confident mood, winning the first three games, only for Monfils to level at 3-3. When the Frenchman served at 4-5 he saved a first set point but could do little about the second as Murray followed up a thumping backhand into a corner with a forehand winner.

Monfils is one of the game's great talents, but one of the reasons why he has never lived up to his potential is his inconsistency. The world No 28 cut a forlorn figure as Murray totally outplayed him in the second set. The Scot raced into a 5-0 lead and was 40-0 up on Monfils' serve in the next game only to give the Frenchman a brief reprieve when he let slip seven break points before taking the set 6-1.

Monfils hung on in the opening game of the third set, saving three break points. When he hit a huge forehand winner on the first point of the next game he became animated for almost the first time, encouraging his supporters to turn up the volume.

As the crowd found their voice, Monfils found his form. When Murray served at 4-5 Monfils wasted two set points with wild forehands but on the third his thumping return forced Murray into an error.

Murray was beginning to show signs of fatigue, as he had three days earlier in his marathon victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber. From 1-1 in the fourth set he lost five games in a row. Murray might have been hoping that the weather would intervene, but the tournament referee, Stefan Fransson, walked on court to tell him that the match would continue.

The only time Murray has lost a Grand Slam match after winning the first two sets was against David Nalbandian at Wimbledon in 2005. As he prepared for the deciding set here he found himself in the same situation he had been in two years ago in the final of the US Open against Novak Djokovic. On that occasion the Scot regrouped after losing the third and fourth sets and went on to claim his first Grand Slam title. Just as he did then, he was focused from the start of the deciding set here.

After holding serve in the opening game Murray bellowed out a scream of "Come on!" Some home supporters did not appear to appreciate that and they liked it even less when the Scot started fist-pumping after breaking serve in the second game. Monfils played poorly, but Murray hardly missed a ball in the last set. "I was just lucky at the end that he started the fifth set badly," Murray said.

However, that was a modest assessment. As he has shown so many times in the past, Murray is some fighter when his back is against the wall.

Lifetime achievement award for Baltacha

Elena Baltacha, who died of liver cancer last month, became the first player to be honoured with a "Fed Cup Heart" lifetime achievement award from the International Tennis Federation at Roland Garros yesterday.

Judy Murray, Britain's Fed Cup captain, received the award. Baltacha's husband and coach, Nino Severino, also attended the ceremony. The ITF donated $10,000 (£6,000) to the "Rally for Bally" appeal, which supports the Elena Baltacha Academy in Ipswich.

Paul Newman

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Arts and Entertainment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home