Andy Murray is world number one. But in Paris he had hardly looked as the top seed. His lapses in his first two games and his struggle against Juan Martin del Potro did not comfort his fans. But, the Briton emerged as a completely different player and played like the number one player in the world on Monday against Karen Khanchanov.
The 30-year-old schooled the Russian in the two-hour match and emerged with a 6-3 6-4 6-4 victory. There were no lapses on Monday from Murray. Playing for the first time against the Russian, he made only one unforced error in the first set. And while Khanchanov was brilliant in bits and pieces, he could not match Murray. He broke Khanchanov 15 times in the match.
With the win, Murray completed his 650th Tour level victory and will face Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals of the French Open 2017. The Japan player beat Fernando Verdasco of Spain in four sets winning 0-6 6-4 6-4 6-0.
“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,” Murray said after the win. “Yeah, come a long way the last 10 days or so.”
Murray has won three Grand Slams titles but has never won the French Open. He finished second best in Paris last year after he lost to Novak Djokovic in the final.
Now, Nishikori stands between his path to last-four. The Japanese had a match of two-halves as he managed to recover from a nightmarish first set, which he lost 6-0, to beat Verdasco in four sets.
In his last match, Nishikori was pushed to the wall by Hyeon Chung in a rain-affected match.
“I couldn’t do anything first set but I tried to play a little more heavy and a little more aggressive sometimes, and start working a little bit better,” Nishikori said. “I don’t know how I get the second and third. But, yeah, a little bit gained some confidence during second and third. The fourth, I think it was perfect tennis I played.”
Nishikori has beaten Murray twice, most recently in the 2015 US Open in a dramatic five-setter, winning 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 to reach the semifinals but he does not remember the match.
“Actually I’m very bad with the memories,” Nishikori said. “I don’t even know if I won or lost. I mean, always, you know, when we play, it’s always a battle. Sorry that I don’t remember much.”