It is time for Andy Murray to reassess his goals. The 22-year-old Scot's initial aim was to make it into the second week of the French Open and he achieved that target here last night thanks to Janko Tipsarevic's retirement with a hamstring injury. Murray, who was leading 7-6, 6-3 at the time, now meets Marin Cilic tomorrow in the fourth round.
This is the furthest Murray has gone at what has always been his most difficult Grand Slam tournament. The world No 3 has never been at his most comfortable on clay, but this was another example of his outstanding progress over the last year. Tipsarevic may have paid the price for hard matches in the first two rounds but did not appear to be suffering during a first set which demonstrated Murray's fighting qualities.
An attacking player with a big serve and heavy groundstrokes, the 24-year-old Serb had beaten Murray in two of their previous four meetings. He took command in the early stages, breaking twice to lead 5-2, and served for the set on three occasions. Each time, however, Murray's excellent returns, combined with Tipsarevic's poor choice of shots, kept the set alive. Murray went on take the tie-break 7-3 after an excellent final point, following up a fine return of serve with a crisp backhand cross-court winner.
Tipsarevic, who said later that he had started to suffer in the first set, received treatment after dropping his serve in the first game of the second. Thereafter he clearly had trouble moving and sent for the trainer a second time before throwing in the towel after Murray had taken the second set.
Murray said he felt in good shape going into the second week, particularly as he had not been stretched physically in his first three matches. "I'd love to go further and try to go very deep into the tournament," he said. "I'm playing well enough to do that. I just have to keep up my consistency and I know I can win more matches. The first week has been a good start."
Cilic, nevertheless, should pose a stiff test. The 20-year-old Croat, who beat Radek Stepanek 6-1, 7-6, 6-3, has not dropped a set in his first three matches. The world No 13 beat Murray in the semi-finals of the junior tournament here four years ago but has lost their two meetings as seniors, in the Davis Cup at Wimbledon two years ago and at the Madrid Masters last year.
"He's a very good player," Murray said. "He goes for his shots. He's got a big game."
The winner tomorrow will play either Fernando Gonzalez or Victor Hanescu, who beat Gilles Simon, the world No 7. Novak Djokovic, the world No 4, won in straight sets against Sergiy Stakhovsky, while Rafael Nadal, the defending champion, won his 31st match in a row at Roland Garros when he beat Lleyton Hewitt 6-1, 6-3, 6-1.
After the match, Nadal took the opportunity to speak out in defence of Richard Gasquet, who has been suspended after failing a drugs test for cocaine. "I'm certain he's not taking anything," Nadal said. "He's not taking cocaine. He's a good friend of mine and I discussed this with him last week.
"You know what the world is like today. You know, when you go to a party, anything can happen... If you kiss a girl who's taken cocaine, anything can happen, and that's the truth. That's reality and this can destroy your life or your career and this is most unfair."