Murray fends off del Potro to reach 4th round
- Jan-Jaap Abbink
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Andy Murray benefited from a double-fault by Juan Martin del Potro in the opening tiebreaker and then looked more and more like the No. 1 player that he is during a 7-6 (8), 7-5, 6-0 victory at the French Open on Saturday.
The third-round match between a pair of past major champions was much tighter than the straight-set scoreline might indicate.
"Yeah, I expected a very tough match. And the first set was very, very important, I think, for the rest of the match. Whoever had won that first set had big momentum," Murray said. "In these conditions, when it's slow and heavy, to be coming back is difficult."
He needed nearly 3 hours to get past the 29th-seeded del Potro at Court Philippe Chatrier under a cloud-filled sky. It was a rematch of the 2016 Rio Olympics gold-medal final won by Murray.
Del Potro had four set points in the opening set but lost each one, including that key double-fault while ahead 7-6 in the tiebreaker. After Murray converted a third set point of his own when his opponent's big forehand landed barely wide, del Potro rested his head on the net and stayed put for several seconds, the very picture of disappointment.
"Too much frustration," del Potro said. "I couldn't believe I lost that set."
Murray, who was the runner-up at Roland Garros a year ago, improved to 19-4 in Grand Slam matches after winning a first-set tiebreaker.
The three-time Grand Slam title winner has not had a great season so far, particularly on the clay-court circuit leading up to the French Open, but he now has reached the fourth round for the eighth time in 10 appearances in Paris.
"I'm starting to feel better. I was really looking forward to the French Open," Murray said. "I had struggled the last six or seven weeks coming in."
Del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, was playing at his first French Open since 2012 because of a series of operations on his left wrist. Under constant pressure from an aggressive foe, del Potro had some trouble from Murray's drop shots and wound up making far more unforced errors, 43-28.
Third-seeded Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 champion, had just beaten 28th-seeded Fabio Fognini 7-6 (2), 6-0, 6-2 on Court Suzanne Lenglen when rain began to fall.
Wawrinka, owner of three major championships in all, will play for a quarterfinal berth against No. 15 Gael Monfils or No. 24 Richard Gasquet.
Monfils won the first set on Court Philippe Chatrier when play was suspended for the day. Kei Nishikori won the first two sets against Hyeon Chung on Court 1, lost the third and was trailing in the fourth when their match was stopped.
John Isner of the United States had not yet started his third-round match against Karen Khachanov.
Earlier, Marin Cilic also reached the fourth round after swatting aside Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez 6-1, 6-3, 6-3.
The seventh-seeded Croat dropped his opening service game and then won eight straight games to take complete control against Lopez.
The 35-year-old Lopez had beaten Cilic twice before on clay -- his only wins against him -- but never looked in contention on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Cilic took the second set when he broke Lopez to love and served out the match to win in 1 hour, 47 minutes.
"My return was working extremely well today," said Cilic, who had eight aces.
The 2014 US Open champion next faces big-serving South African Kevin Anderson, who beat Britain's Kyle Edmund in a hard-fought five-set match 6-7 (6), 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.