• French Open, Day Nine

Murray must find another gear against Ferrer

ESPN staff
June 4, 2012 « Sharapova's service shambles | Chartbeat test »
Andy Murray has never beaten David Ferrer on clay © PA Photos
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Make no mistake, Richard Gasquet was by far Andy Murray's sternest test of the French Open so far - and he passed in some style, winning in four sets.

Let's not forget that Gasquet was the victor the last time the two combatants went into battle on clay, and in Paris on Monday he had the benefit of the home support on his side.

But even in difficult circumstances, Murray was too good: he didn't panic when he lost the first set, showed real grace in his movement and a packed arsenal of shots.

However, having been through one significant rise in quality, he is now set to face another against David Ferrer in the quarter-finals. Ferrer has never been past the last eight at Roland Garros, something of a surprise given his comfort on clay, but in many people's eyes he will be the favourite when he faces Murray later this week.

With the notable exception of Rafael Nadal (who Murray could meet in the semi-finals), no-one has been more consistently impressive than Ferrer. His last two victories, against Mikhail Youzhny and Marcel Granollers, have been demolition jobs - so much so that Youzhny was moved to scrawl "sorry" (well, "sorri") on the court.

Ferrer doesn't have one explosive quality, and it was noticeable that relatively few Parisians troubled themselves to watch his match on a cold Monday morning. However, he knows exactly what he is doing on clay, and carries out the gameplan to the letter each time. It's relentless and it's efficient.

Murray has the better grand slam record, but Ferrer will see no reason to fear the Scot who, impressive as he was against Gasquet, still showed a couple of alarming traits that he will need to sort out before his last-eight encounter.

We don't want to be unduly negative, and it's worth pointing out that these are small mental gripes, rather than any technical issues - but still, they're problems. The first was his slow start: time after time Murray is sluggish coming out of the blocks, letting a first set drift by before he's had the chance to land any sort of blow on his opponent. Gasquet took his foot off Murray's throat; Ferrer won't.

Plus there was a concerning moment in the second set where Murray offered up the sort of generosity that Ferrer won't fail to snap up. He battled hard to take a break, then immediately took his foot off the gas and allowed Gasquet to level immediately. Not consolidating breaks is part of the reason why a bridge remains (although it's growing ever smaller) between Murray and Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Ferrer has won every time he's played Murray on clay, so the Scot must make sure he does not let any cracks open up.

So far, so good at Roland Garros - but it still needs to be better in the unforgiving world of men's tennis.

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