Andy Murray pulled off one of his best French Open victories to reach the quarter-finals at Roland Garros for the fourth time.
The Wimbledon champion survived a wobble yesterday in the third set to defeat 24th seed Fernando Verdasco 6-4 7-5 7-6 (7/3).
In the last eight Murray will play his former junior rival Gael Monfils, who delighted the home fans with an unusually straightforward victory over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
Murray said: “It was an unbelievable atmosphere, I really enjoyed myself on the court. We played some great points, he fought extremely hard in the third set.
“I was a bit nervous at the end, but I’m glad I managed to get through. I was trying to play more aggressive because I knew I’d be a little bit tired in my legs. Thankfully the balls were going in; that doesn’t always happen.
“I played Gael for the first time when I was 10 and he was 11. He’s one of the best players to watch, he’s so entertaining, and he’s a really nice guy. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Murray has a great record against left-handers, a legacy of growing up playing against brother Jamie, and had beaten Verdasco in nine of their 10 previous meetings.
But they had never met on clay, the Scot’s weakest surface, and Murray’s Wimbledon dream would have been snuffed out in the quarter-finals last year had Verdasco capitalised on a two-set lead.
A big question was how well would Murray fare physically after his two-day, five-set battle against Philipp Kohlschreiber in round three.
Murray had stepped up a level from his first three matches and after a break for 5-4, took the set.
The seventh seed finally took a chance in the 11th game of the third set to break having squandered earlier opportunities. He converted a third set point to take it 7-5.
One thing Murray would not have been happy with was his break-point conversion, and his profligacy led to the third set going to a tie-break.
His 30-year-old opponent was fired up, but Murray won three consecutive points from 3-3 to win in two hours and 54 minutes.