Murray's feats of clay earn him major respect

'Best defender in the world' remains on course for semi-final clash with Nadal

Respect for Andy Murray among his peers grows with every passing week. Clay is the 22-year-old Scot's least comfortable surface but he plays here today in the fourth round of the French Open with, whisper it, his route opening up towards a semi-final showdown with Rafael Nadal.

Murray's latest victim, Janko Tipsarevic, who retired with sore hamstrings after going two sets down to the world No 3 on Friday night, did not hold back in his praise. "He is the best defender and has the best passing shots on the tour," the 24-year-old Serb said. "He's not Nadal but he's still a great player on clay.

"He plays the right shots at the important moments. It's probably because of the confidence that he has gained in the last couple of months. When it matters, he's a world-class player and he knows what shot needs to be played. He makes you play that extra shot."

Having surpassed his previous best performance here by reaching the last 16, Murray now meets 20-year-old Marin Cilic, the winner to face Fernando Gonzalez or Victor Hanescu in the quarter-finals.

Murray lost to Cilic in the semi-finals of the French Open junior tournament in 2005 – the Scot's last match at that level before he moved full-time to the senior circuit – but has beaten the 6ft 6in Croatian in their two subsequent meetings.

Having won three tournaments in the last nine months, Cilic is at a career-high No 13 in the world rankings. He has not dropped a set in his first three matches here, disposing of Jan Hernych, Dudi Sela and Radek Stepanek for the loss of only 21 games, three fewer than Rafael Nadal.

"He serves well and, for a big guy, he moves well," Murray said. "He and [Juan Martin] del Potro, for two huge guys, play different games to how you would have expected them to play maybe 10 or 15 years ago. They don't come to the net that much and they play mainly from the back, hitting big ground strokes."

Under the watchful eye of his coaches, Miles Maclagan and Alex Corretja, Murray has grown in confidence over the first week, dropping only one set in beating Juan Ignacio Chela, Potito Starace and Tipsarevic, who all grew up on clay courts.

"A lot of people thought I had a very tricky draw and I've come through some tough situations, but I haven't used up too much energy," Murray said. "It's been a good week. Winning's the most important thing and the second is not to use up too much energy. The higher-ranked players tend to play better as the tournament goes on. Hopefully next week I'll play better than I did this week."

With the slower surface lessening the advantage of the big servers – even if Ivo Karlovic did hit a record 55 aces against Lleyton Hewitt – Murray has become adept at turning around situations that might have spelled major trouble on quicker courts. He beat Starace convincingly despite a run in which he won only two of 13 games, while he broke Tipsarevic, a big-hitter with a deceptively heavy serve, on all three occasions when the Serb served for the first set.

"You just fight and try to come back," Murray said. "I guess it's much easier to do that on clay. You get into more rallies and it's tough just to serve well and win the set comfortably. One of the things I've talked to Alex and Miles about is not to panic if you go behind. One break is nothing on these courts. Two is obviously a bit tougher but you can always find ways to come back."

Nevertheless, Murray will guard against complacency. Asked if there were any parts of his game he felt he needed to work on during the second week, he said: "All of it. I think I served very well in my first two matches, but I didn't hit my first serve that well against Tipsarevic, though when it mattered in the tie-break I served great.

"I'll just try and play consistently well for the whole of my matches and not have any little let-downs. I guess that would be my goal for next week."

The world No 3's progress is in marked contrast to his brother's struggles. Jamie Murray's year hit another low point last week when he lost in the first round of the men's doubles and found himself frozen out of the mixed event. Liezel Huber, his regular partner at recent Grand Slam tournaments, has teamed up instead with Bob Bryan because she feared Murray's falling ranking would not be high enough to earn a place in the Paris draw. However, they are expected to play together at Wimbledon.

Although Murray's partnership last year with Max Mirnyi did not work out, the Scot peaked at No 27 in the world doubles rankings only four months ago. Since his early-season plans to play with Serbia's Dusan Vemic fizzled out, Murray has had four different partners – Simon Aspelin, Jamie Delgado, Paul Hanley and Pavel Vizner – and won only three of his last 11 matches. At Queen's Club and Wimbledon he will team up temporarily with Israel's Jonathan Erlich.

"I've hit a rough patch the last few months," he said. "I don't know why. I lost a few matches and you lose confidence, start to think about things too much, over-analyse and it gets worse."

News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat