EXACTLY two years since he last stepped into the cauldron of Court Philippe Chatrier, Britain’s Andy Murray returns today with a sense of deja vu, attempting to silence the natives, slay one of their heroes and keep injury problems under control.
With last remaining Frenchman and lowest seed left in the draw Gael Monfils standing in his way, Murray finally returns to the scene of a fourth round win against Richard Gasquet in 2012, where he felt the full force of the partisan Parisians’ rage after clutching his back intermittently, consequently disrupting his opponent’s rhythm.
Murray missed last year’s French Open with an injury to the same area and organisers have, until now, not scheduled him to play on the main court during this year’s run, where he is starting to show signs of his best after a long period of recuperation from back surgery.
It is eight years since Murray and Monfils last met at Roland Garros, the 6ft 4in Frenchman winning in five sets, and four years since they played at all – Monfils again coming out on top in a Paris Open quarter-final. But while historical similarities exist ahead of today’s quarter-final, the old adversaries have experienced contrasting fortunes of late.
Monfils, nine months Murray’s senior, has spent the last year rebuilding his reputation having tumbled out of the world’s top 100, though enjoyed an excellent third round win over No14 seed Fabio Fognini. In that time Murray became the Wimbledon and Olympic champion.
An energetic display is sure to give Monfils the backing of the crowd, but Murray should prevail.