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
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Ricky Gervais performs stand-up
people
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Caption competition
Caption competition
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.

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering