PARIS: Andy Murray moved ominously into the French Open quarterfinals for the sixth time in his career with a clinical 7-6(9), 6-4, 6-3 defeat of American John Isner on Sunday.
The second seed began the tournament scraping through back-to-back five-setters but has been a model of efficiency since and has his eyes fixed firmly on a first title at Roland Garros.
Isner took a 0-5 career record against Murray on to a murky Court Suzanne Lenglen but he stuck manfully to his task in the first set, denying the Briton the slightest whiff of a break.
The 15th seed had three set points in the tiebreak, the first of which, when serving at 6-5, he will be rueing.
Murray reacted superbly to return a booming first serve and Isner then failed to make the most of an inviting mid-court forehand, giving the Briton the chance to ram a backhand past him as he advanced to the net.
Three-times Roland Garros semifinalist Murray converted his second set point when Isner hit a forehand wide.
After a rain delay, the second set proved another tight tussle before Isner cracked under pressure at 4-5 -- Murray breaking for the first time to move two sets clear with the help of a delightful angled drop shot.
The weather was dull and wet but that did not stop a beaming Stan Wawrinka from having plenty of fun on Sunday as he enjoyed a mid-match rally with a ballboy before twirling 360 degrees on court to take a selfie-video with 10,000 French Open spectators.
In between all the sideshows, the reigning champion lit up a gloomy Roland Garros with his lurid day-glo yellow shirt as he reached the quarterfinals with a dazzling 7-6(5), 6-7(7), 6-3 6-2 win over Serbia's Viktor Troicki.
In an entertaining match featuring between-the-leg shots, 105 sweetly-struck winners and an array of blinding backhands from Wawrinka, the Swiss third seed chalked up his fifth successive win over Troicki when the Serbian netted a backhand.
"For me, it was a great win, a great match, a very robust match," a soggy Wawrinka told reporters after playing the second set through a misty rain shower.
"I managed to stay very calm, I didn't get excited, or irritated, even though I lost the second set. I didn't waste any intellectual energy because I was very serene."
The win earned Wawrinka an eighth successive victory on clay, following his triumph in the Geneva tournament last weekend, but more importantly it allowed him to set up a quarterfinal meeting with unheralded Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
Troicki kept Wawrinka on his toes during the first half of the contest, with the Swiss winning the opening set on his eighth set point before the Serbian bagged the second set on his fifth.
After surrendering the tiebreak with a miscued lob, Wawrinka gave himself a sarcastic thumbs up and repeatedly prodded the side of his temple with his index finger, no doubt wondering "what the hell was that?"
All the running around Troicki did in the first two sets caught up with him midway through the third and he called on the trainer.
As the Serbian lay flat on his back to have his hip manipulated, Troicki was the only person on Philippe Chatrier Court who missed out on watching "a bored" Wawrinka trading groundstrokes with a ballboy.
"I asked the ballboy if he played tennis and I thought, 'why don't we go and hit a few balls'. He wasn't afraid to be on centre court," a smiling Wawrinka said.
"We had a little chat. He was a nice kid. It was nice for him. It was fun for the audience. I was a little bit bored waiting for him (Troicki) so it kept me busy."
The treatment, however, failed to have the desired effect as Wawrinka "tightened a few nuts and bolts" to run away with the last two sets and condemned Troicki to a 20th successive defeat against top-three opponents.
Subdued eighth seed Milos Raonic's French Open came to an abrupt halt when he was swept aside 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 by Spanish claycourter Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
The big-serving Canadian could make little impression against the dogged, 28-year-old left-hander who finished the contest with an angled smash on his third match point.
"I had a simple task out there to try to find a way to win and I wasn't able to find that today," the 25-year-old Raonic, who dropped serve five times, told a news conference.
"I gave myself opportunities on his serve, but the day is a lot easier for the other guy when I don't serve well."
Ramos-Vinolas will play either defending champion Stan Wawrinka or Viktor Troicki in his first grand slam quarter-final, having never been past the second round in his 18 appearances in the four majors.
"I lost I think four times in a row in the first round here, now this year quarter-finals for the moment. So I'm really, really happy," Barcelona-born Ramos-Vinolas said.
"I think the weather helped today, because it slowed down his service a bit."
The warning signs were there for Raonic when he dropped serve in the third game of the match under grey skies on Court Suzanne Lenglen and he effectively surrendered the opener when he was broken again at 1-3.
Raonic, who afterwards played down any lingering effects of the hip injury that bothered him against Andrej Martin in the third round, dropped serve again at 4-4 in the second set and Ramos-Vinolas duly held to take a two-set lead.
The third set went with serve until Raonic netted a forehand to give his opponent the chance to serve for the match.
There was a glimmer of hope for Raonic when he had a point to make it 5-5, but Ramos-Vinolas refused to be denied a second career win against a top-10 player, served an ace to bring up match point and coolly sealed victory.
"I think this tournament in general I played definitely way too passive and I let the other guys dictate too much," Raonic said. "I counted on sort of scrapping and fighting to get myself through, which was enough, but it wasn't enough today."
He will now turn his attention to the grasscourt season where he will spend three weeks working with seven-times grand slam champion John McEnroe.
When this year's French Open draw was made just over a week ago, American Shelby Rogers was right near the back of the queue, just avoiding the qualifiers by scraping in on the direct entry list.
On Sunday the 108th ranked American, playing the tournament of her life, once again ended up in floods of tears after taking her place in the last eight by dispatching 25th seeded Romanian Irina Begu 6-3, 6-4.
Although she admitted she was probably playing above herself, she also doesn't feel out of place in such rarefied company.
"I'm definitely outside of my comfort zone already, and I keep telling myself, you belong here," Rogers, who had knocked out twice Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the previous round, told a news conference.
Sunday's win made her only the ninth woman ranked outside the top 100 to reach the quarterfinals at Roland Garros since 1983.
Things are likely to get tougher still when she faces her next opponent, fourth seed Garbine Muguruza.
Muguruza, who beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-4 to reach the last eight at Roland Garros on Sunday, is probably the best chance of a Spanish triumph at the French Open.
The fourth seed moved into the quarterfinals for the third year in a row with a solid display as she looks to become the first Spanish woman to lift the Suzanne Lenglen Cup since Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in 1998.
Hard hitter Muguruza, who has yet to make it to the last four in Paris, left little breathing space for the Russian 13th seed, the 2009 Roland Garros champion, in a style different to that of Sanchez Vicario, a pure claycourt specialist.
"I know maybe now I'm more a favourite, but I could have lost two days ago," Muguruza told reporters.
The Wimbledon runner-up believes she is now better equipped to go a step further.
"I think the one thing that I have really improved is not just one type of shot. It's me, generally speaking. It's me -- it's the way I prepare matches," she said.
"I think I have more experience. When I win I analyse why. When I lose I analyse why. And therefore, I have become a better player, generally speaking.
"It's not that I have improved my forehand or anything specific."
Muguruza peppered the court with winners -- which made up for numerous unforced errors -- and broke decisively on her seventh opportunity to lead 5-3 in the opening set.
She closed it out with a booming forehand winner and broke again in the third game of the second set with a service return winner.
Kuznetsova saw a lifeline when she broke back to 4-4 as Muguruza started to get inconsistent, only for the Spaniard to break again in the following game with a fine passing shot.
Muguruza, however, showed signs of nerves and wasted two match points before serving a double fault. She regained her composure, though, and wrapped it up on her fifth match point when Kuznetsova's backhand sailed long. - Reuters