TENNIS: Murray ready for Gasquet clash

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IF Andy Murray’s previous matches against Richard Gasquet are anything to go by then we can expect plenty more drama in Paris today.

The world number four’s back worries appear to be easing, which is just as well given the hurdles that stand in his way if he is to at least match last year’s run to the French Open semi-finals.

The first one is Gasquet in the fourth round, with wall-like Spaniard David Ferrer and king of clay Rafael Nadal waiting in the wings.

Murray and Gasquet have met each six times, winning three each, with the Frenchman prevailing in their most recent match in Rome last month. But it is two of their grand slam clashes that live long in the memory, with Murray twice fighting back from two sets to love down to win, firstly at Wimbledon in the fourth round in 2008 and then in the first round in Paris two years ago.

Recalling that clash, the Scot said: “It was a very good comeback. I remember him starting the match very, very well, and then I just managed to turn it around. I wouldn’t necessarily see myself as the favourite for the match. Obviously he beat me a couple of weeks ago. He’s going to have the crowd behind him. Right now this has probably been his best surface.

“So it’s going to be a tough match. But when I played him here last time, I hung in, I fought really hard. When he plays well, he’s a very, very tough guy to beat. He plays some unbelievable shots.”

Gasquet’s weakness has always been mental rather than technical, but there have been signs this week he may finally be ready to live up to his billing.

He came through a tough second-round clash against another of the game’s prodigious talents, Grigor Dimitrov, who spent the second half of the match battling cramp after a 36-shot rally that left Gasquet vomiting on court.

On Saturday he took on German veteran Tommy Haas and, after losing the first set on a tie-break, was in such good form that he won the last 14 games.

Gasquet is not putting too much pressure on himself against Murray, though, saying: “I think it’s always better to play him on clay than on grass. But he’s in the top four and has been for quite a while. So I’m not the favourite.”

Novak Djokovic avoided a huge upset by fighting back from two sets to love down against Italy’s Andreas Seppi in the fourth round yesterday.

The world number triumphed 4-6 6-7 (5/7) 6-3 7-5 6-3 after four hours and 18 minutes.

And Roger Federer beat Belgium lucky loser David Goffin 5-7 7-5 6-2 6-4 and in the process extended his record of consecutive slam quarter-finals reached to 32.