It was very much the Andy of old as he cruised into his fifth consecutive quarter-final at the French Open with a straight sets victory over a young Russian with the talent to become a top ten player in the near future.
I think today was probably the best I have played overall. It was difficult conditions. It was pretty windy out there and wasn't easy Andy Murray
Andy Murray, the world number one, beat the 21-year-old ranked 53, Karen Khlachanov 6-3 6-4 6-4 after two-hours and 4-minutes and in so doing, showed that the determination and focus which saw him reach the final last year, was finally back.
It will be his seventh appearance at that stage in Roland Garros
Earlier the Scot had expressed doubts about his form but that looks to be a thing of the past as he neutralised the powerful 6’6” youngster’s serve and groundstrokes, always managing to make the Russian play an extra shot as he successfully defended his side of the court.
He did drop his serve twice but again, immediately recovered to make up the deficiency, his most serious being when he dropped it towards the end of the third.
Khachanov had beaten Tomas Berdych in straight sets and John Isner over a grueling four, including three tiebreaks, to make the last 16. He showed no fear or nerves and from the start deployed his powerful shots to keep Murray at bay but the Brit’s own confidence was riding high following his victory over Juan Martin del Potro in the previous round.
Some classic Murray defending drew the error from Khachanov and a break for 4-2, allowing Murray to take the opener comfortably.
He broke again for 2-1 in the second set and the only real blip came three games later when Khachanov broke but failed to consolidate as the Scot reclaimed his break immediately.
Khachanov had not played a top five player before and his immaturity became evident in the third as he attempted to blast his way to victory only for Murray to move him about the court with relative ease. He did raise his hopes when he levelled for 4-4 but again Murray rectified the situation by breaking back and serving out for his 650th tour-level win, finishing with 29 winners and just 14 unforced errors. The 21-year-old Khachanov, who was the youngest man left in the field, made 38 unforced errors, commented after his loss: “It’s never fun to lose a match. But I take great experience from this match and playing on the Center Court. All the credit to Andy.”
Later Murray said: “I think today was probably the best I have played overall. It was difficult conditions. It was pretty windy out there and wasn’t easy. Each match I feel like I played better. I have hit the ball cleaner and started to see the right shots at the right moments. I’ve come a long way the past 10 days or so.”
He now goes on to face Kei Nishikori who recovered from a poor start to defeat Fernando Verdasco 0-6 6-6 6-4 6-0, the last eight. The Brit leads the Japanese No1, 8-2 in their head-to-head matches and won their lone clay-court clash at the 2015 Madrid Open. “Kei is dangerous off both wings,” Murray said. “Moves well.”
Murray, who had spent Sunday night watching the Manchester Concert, sent his condolences to those Mancunians and Londoners who suffered losses and injuries in those tragic terrorist attacks.
He said: “Terrible tragedy in London, also in Manchester only six or seven days ago. Paris has also had some problems in the last (few) years.
“I’m sure everybody will share in thoughts and prayers for everyone who’s been affected by this. It’s obviously something affecting large parts of Europe and all over the world.
“I appreciate everyone still coming out to support the tennis and creating a fantastic atmosphere.”
In the remaining fourth round matches Stan Wawrinka progressed past Gael Monfils 7-5 7-6(2) 6-2 while his next opponent Marin Cilic, was handed his place in the quarters when Kevin Anderson retired with the score standing at 6-3 3-0.