Andy Murray was hot and cold throughout the early stages of Wednesday's French Open quarterfinal clash with Richard Gasquet, but he found his groove late and captured a 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-0, 6-2 victory to snag a spot in the semifinals at Roland Garros.
Murray improved to 8-3 all-time against Gasquet with the win and has now won six straight against the Frenchman ever since losing to him at the 2012 Masters in Rome.
It would have been reasonable to expect Murray to show signs of fatigue after he opened his French Open with back-to-back five-set matches against Radek Stepanek and Mathias Bourgue, but the No. 2 seed looked surprisingly fresh from the get-go.
Specifically, Murray broke Gasquet on the Frenchman's first service game of the match and assumed a quick 3-0 lead after holding down the fort on serve early. However, Gasquet was able to break through on a few occasions and slowly build momentum with crafty returns, as Roland Garros' official Twitter account documented:
Malgré cette belle contre amortie de Gasquet, le français reste mené 4 à 1 dans le 1er set #RG16 https://t.co/wkNzjxpbCz2016-6-1 12:39:15
In fact, Gasquet was able to force deuce and bring a break point within sight down 4-2 in the first set thanks, in part, to a gorgeous string of volleys, per the tournament's Twitter account:
Beautiful volley from Gasquet / A l'aise à la volée Richie ! #RG16 https://t.co/jNPF5nbApq2016-6-1 12:47:01
Murray would go on to hold for a brief 5-2 lead, but Gasquet battled back and eventually secured his first break point of the match to close the gap to 5-4 and swing the pressure back onto the favorite, as shown by Roland Garros on Twitter:
Et Gasquet débreaka ! #RG16 https://t.co/3Kb9J6vYil2016-6-1 13:03:07
Once Gasquet found his groove late in the first set, Murray started to crack. Unforced errors littered his decision-making—particularly with the backhand—and Gasquet built on his surge to snag another break before putting Murray away on serve for a come-from-behind 7-5 triumph in the first set.
Tennis writer Tumaini Carayol noted Murray consistently struggled at the net when he attempted to beat Gasquet with finesse:
Tumaini Carayol @tumcarayol
The English are a negative bunch, but even they haven't created a word negative enough to describe Murray's drop shots today.2016-6-1 13:47:25
Following his collapse down the stretch of the first set, Murray appeared prime to rebound when he mounted a 5-2 edge in the second stanza. But as was the case in the first frame, Gasquet held for 5-3, broke back and trimmed the deficit to 5-4 before holding on for 5-5.
The second set moved to a tiebreak with Murray desperately searching for answers, and he bounced back from a double-fault and closed things out with authority to level the match at a set apiece. The 7-6 second-set loss was also the first time in five matches at this year's French Open that Gasquet dropped a set.
Christopher Clarey of the New York Times was among those impressed by Murray's resolve in a hostile environment:
Christopher Clarey @christophclarey
Six straight points for a pumped-up Murray in tiebreak to even match at one set apiece. Impressive for a man playing on the road2016-6-1 14:36:27
From that point on, Murray appeared rejuvenated.
The two-time Grand Slam winner broke Gasquet on each of his first three service games in the third set to take a swift 5-0 lead, and he continued to pour it on as he blanked his foe and capped off a major momentum swing with a 6-0 victory, per the New York Times' Ben Rothenberg:
Ben Rothenberg @BenRothenberg
Murray saved a game point with an amazing forehand in the first game of the third, then ran off with a bagel. Gasquet a disparu. #RG162016-6-1 15:07:18
Murray calmly broke Gasquet once more to take a 2-1 edge early in the fourth set, and he didn't look back as Gasquet crumbled.
Murray will now meet No. 3 seed and defending French Open champion Stan Wawrinka in the semifinals after the Swiss stud dispatched Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2, 6-1, 7-6(7).
And if history is any indication, Murray and Wawrinka should be in for a tight affair. Murray owns an 8-7 head-to-head edge all-time against Wawrinka, but the 31-year-old has won each of the last three meetings—including a victorious effort on clay at the 2013 Monte Carlo Masters.
Given the rate at which Murray's been pushed throughout his first five matches, it wouldn't be a shock to see him hounded by heavy legs for stretches with a French Open final berth in his sights.
''It was a very physical match, up to that point, and it would have been very difficult to come back if I'd lost the second," Murray said of the tiebreak, according to the Associated Press (via Tennis.com).
"I'm leading 3-1 and I'm not lucky with the net," Gasquet said of the crucial tiebreak, per ATPWorldTour.com. "Then he is playing unbelievable."
"Some great tennis, a lot of fun points to watch," Murray added, according to the Guardian's Jacob Steinberg and Stuart Goodwin. "Both of us had our chances in the first two sets and it was very important for me to win the second set."
"The defending champion, it’s going to be extremely tough," Murray said of his semifinal date with Wawrinka. "Hopefully I can play my best tennis and reach my first final here."
Stats courtesy of ATPWorldTour.com unless noted otherwise.