Tennis

Andy Murray, pictured, defeated John Isner in straight sets to reach the quarter-finals of the French Open (AP).

Andy Murray rides the storm to see off John Isner in French Open

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Andy Murray rode the storm literally and emotionally to defeat John Isner and reach his sixth French Open quarter-final.

The challenge of trying to break the giant American's serve caused Murray no end of turmoil but he kept his focus and ground out a 7-6 (11/9) 6-4 6-3 victory.

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It was his sixth win from six meetings with Isner and booked a likely quarter-final spot against Frenchman Richard Gasquet, who surprisingly won the opening two sets against fifth seed Kei Nishikori.

Murray said of winning the first-set tie-break: "It was very important. It was a very close set, it could have gone either way. I got a bit lucky on the set point, just guessed the right way.

"It's obviously difficult conditions, you don't quite know what's going to happen, so to go in on that rain delay ahead was very important."

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The victory means the world number two has reached at least the last eight at 20 of his last 21 grand slams while six appearances in the quarter-finals is the most ever by a British man.

Inevitably, the man with whom he previously shared the record was Fred Perry.

Perry went on to lift the title here in 1935, and Murray arrived in Paris clearly fancying his chances of doing the same.

His rollercoaster start to the tournament, when he might have lost to either Radek Stepanek or Mathias Bourgue, is fast becoming a distant memory.

In the third round he eased past Ivo Karlovic and, although things were a little trickier against the game's other giant, ultimately it was a comfortable win for Murray.

The match began under leaden skies and it was Isner who coped better with the slow conditions to start with.

The American, known for his serve and booming forehand rather than any finesse from the back of the court, twice forced break points in the early stages but Murray held firm.

The match burst into life in the first-set tie-break. Murray did not put a foot wrong in opening up a 5-2 lead but then lost four points in a row, leaving Isner with a set point on his own serve.

Normally that would be a formality but Murray somehow scrambled a return back and then drilled a backhand pass down the line.

He saved two more Isner set points as gentle rain began to fall and then took his second chance when Isner hooked a forehand wide, the Scot letting out a huge yell of 'Come on'.

The rain began to bucket down during the fourth game of the second set and play was stopped for just short of an hour with Isner at deuce.

Murray was determined to avoid another tie-break, where one mistake could cost him a set, and he was at his raging best - or worst - as he sought the crucial break of serve, berating himself after every point lost.

Isner saved two break points on the resumption and another in his next service game but, at 5-4, his defences were finally breached as Murray returned a drop shot with interest and then hooked a forehand into the open court.

Isner said prior to the match he was "desperate" to reach the quarter-finals having lost at the fourth-round stage on five of the previous six occasions he had made it that far at a slam.

The one exception was at the US Open in 2011 - also the last time an American man reached that stage - when he went on to lose to Murray.

Murray seemed to be over the worst and, with Isner now struggling to hit winning serves, it was no surprise when the Scot moved into a 4-1 lead.

Missing three chances to lead 5-1 affected Murray, who found himself having to battle to hold onto his own serve, but he did so and clinched victory with his ninth ace after two hours and 40 minutes.

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Topics:
Tennis
Andy Murray

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