PARIS: Britain’s Andy Murray returns the ball to Russia’s Karen Khachanov during their tennis match at the Roland Garros 2017 French Open yesterday in Paris. — AFP

PARIS: Andy Murray racked up his 650th career win to reach the French Open quarter-finals yesterday before paying an unscripted, emotional tribute to the victims of the London and Manchester terror attacks. World number one Murray, the runner-up in Paris to Novak Djokovic in 2016, brushed aside Karen Khachanov of Russia 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. In his seventh Paris quarter-final, Murray will face either Japanese eighth seed Kei Nishikori or Spain’s Fernando Verdasco. However, instead of discussing the match in the traditional on-court TV interview, Murray took the microphone to remember the 29 people who died in the recent outrages in London and Manchester.

“Obviously there was terrible tragedy in London and Manchester. Paris has had its problems too in recent years,” said Murray. “I am sure everyone will join me... we share our thoughts and prayers with everyone who has been affected. “I appreciate everyone still coming out to support the tennis. I am grateful that I can still perform in front of everyone.” Women’s title favourite and 2014 runner-up Simona Halep trounced Spain’s Carla Suarez- Navarro 6-1, 6-1 to make the last eight without dropping a set or breaking sweat. Third seed Halep, who can become the new world number one if she wins the title, claimed her first win on clay in six attempts against the Spaniard. “I played my best match of the tournament. I served well and opened up the court,” said Halep.

The 25-year-old Halep will tackle Ukraine’s fifth seed Elina Svitolina for a semi-final place. The two met in the Rome final on the eve of Roland Garros when Halep was beaten and suffered an ankle injury which threatened her appearance in Paris. “I sill feel the ankle some times but I am able to run. I don’t think about it during the points,” added Halep.


Svitolina reached the quarter-finals for the second time, ending the dream run of world number 290 Petra Martic with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 win. However, Martic, bidding to become only the 10th qualifier to make the last eight in Paris threw away a golden chance for victory. The 26- year-old led 5-2 in the final set before Svitolina rallied to race away with the last five games.

Later yesterday, Czech world number two Karolina Pliskova, also in the running to become both a first time major winner and the new world number one, faces Veronica Cepede Royg in her last-16 tie. Cepede Royg, ranked 97 in the world, is only the second Paraguayan to make the fourth round of a major. The only other was Rossana de los Rios in Paris 17 years ago. Argentina’s Paola Suarez was the last South American woman to reach a quarter-final at a Slam at Wimbledon in 2004.

Before this year, Pliskova had never made it beyond the second round in Paris. However, she has not yet had to face a player ranked in the top 65 in this tournament. Yesterday’s other last-16 clash sees an all- French battle between Alize Cornet and Caroline Garcia who are barely on speaking terms. The two fell out after Garcia withdrew from the Fed Cup team earlier this year. “I think that the relationship is not very good,” said 27-yearold Cornet. “I think she may have a grudge against us, so she’s not ready to talk with me.” Cornet is playing in her 45th Slam but has yet to reach a quarter-final. In the remaining men’s last-16 ties, third seed and 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka faces Gael Monfils of France while Marin Cilic tackles Kevin Anderson. — AFP