Followers of Grand Slam tennis will be familiar with the ups and downs of best of five-set matches, as even the best players struggle to maintain a high level of intensity over the entirety of a match. Andy Murray’s quarterfinal win over Gael Monfils, however, took things to a new level, the Scot finally closing out a match remarkable for its huge shifts in momentum at 21:40 local time.
The win sends Murray through to a repeat of his 2011 semifinal clash with Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard recovered from losing his first set of the fortnight against compatriot David Ferrer to win in four sets on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
With a two set lead over the maverick Frenchman, Murray looked in complete control and seemed destined to be heading comfortably through to the second Roland Garros semifinal of his career. But Monfils, a master in tennis theatre, clawed his way back into the contest as he stole the only break of serve in the third set at precisely the right moment – with Murray serving at 4-5 down – to send the match into a fourth set.
Suddenly it was Monfils who was in the ascendency, with all the winners coming from his racket and all the errors from Murray’s. Roared on by a passionate home crowd, the 23rd seed raced through the set in just half an hour, winning 6-1 to level the match.
Now well past 21:00 local time, tournament referee Stefan Fransen allowed play to continue into a fifth set. But the storm that had been brewing from the Frenchman’s end of the court seemed to have passed, as Murray sealed an early break to go 3-0 up.
And not for the first time in the match, Murray was ruthless in taking advantage of the errors that were once again coming from Monfils, winning the fifth set in just 24 minutes without losing a game.
“The way that he played the last three or four games… it was unexpected, because his level in the third and fourth sets was extremely high,” said Murray whose 64 61 46 61 60 victory marked the first time that he has won two five-set matches in the same tournament. “But that's the thing about five‑set matches, you need to do it for longer than two sets. Obviously once I got up in the fifth set his level dropped a lot.”
Monfils, for his part, was unable to explain his sudden change in fortunes: “I don't think I have the answer yet… everything happened very fast,” he confessed. Still, once the immediate pain of the loss has faded, he will no doubt be pleased with his performance this fortnight. His run here is his best at a Grand Slam since 2011.
Out on Lenglen, the repeat of last year’s final between Nadal and Ferrer seemed to be shaping up to be a closely-fought encounter, as the fifth seed produced some superb clay-court tennis to win a tight first set 6-4.
And just one break of serve proved the difference in the second, as Nadal bounced back to level the match.
It was here, however, that the reigning champion shifted into top gear, producing a near-flawless third set to take the lead: the world No. 1 did not hit a single unforced error as he crushed Ferrer. There was no let-up in the fourth either, as Nadal continued his excellent hitting and eventually secured a 46 64 60 61 win.
In the women’s singles quarterfinals earlier in the day, Andrea Petkovic and Simona Halep both advanced to their first Grand Slam semifinals with dominant wins over players with much greater experience at this level.
Petkovic was forced to come through consecutive three set encounters with Kristina Mladenovic and Kiki Bertens in the two previous rounds, but she showed no sign of tiredness as she consistently outhit the diminutive Italian Sara Errani. A former finalist here, Errani could not match Petkovic’s harder hitting game, as the German won comfortably 62 62 to advance.
Despite facing the 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, Halep’s excellent form this fortnight made her many people’s to win. And if the Romanian did feel any pressure, she didn’t let it show, wrapping up the first set in just over half an hour and refusing to allow the 27th seed, who was struggling with a left thigh injury, back into the match in the second.
Neither player will have long to rest now, as their semifinal match takes place on Thursday afternoon. It will be preceded by the first semifinal, between Maria Sharapova and Eugenie Bouchard.
The mixed doubles final, which will be contested by the pairings of Julia Goerges and Nenad Zimonjic, and Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Jean-Julien Rojer (the latter being a beneficiary of the Grand Slam Development Fund), is first on Court Philippe Chatrier on Thursday, after both teams won their semifinal matches on Wednesday.
The line-up for the women’s doubles semifinals was also completed as a win for Lucie Hradecka and Michaella Krajicek sending them through to play the 2012 champions, Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci.
Meanwhile, Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro recovered from the disappointment of their quarterfinal singles defeats to set up a meeting with the top seeds, Peng Shuai and Hsieh Su-wei. Those matches will take place on Friday.
The men’s doubles semifinals will be played on Court Suzanne Lenglen on Thursday, with the conquerors of the Bryan brothers, Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez, taking on the unseeded pair of Croatia’s Marin Draganja and Romania’s Florin Mergea, another player who has benefited from the Grand Slam Development Fund.
The second semifinal sees Andrey Golubev and Samuel Groth take on the French team of Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, and the home crowd will certainly be keen to get behind the last remaining French hope in one of the senior competitions.
The ITF produces men's match notes at Roland Garros. For a full list of the notes please click here.