Briton Andy Murray ended home hopes by beating Gael Monfils 6-4 6-1 4-6 1-6 6-0 in front of a roaring crowd on Wednesday night to reach his first French Open semi-final since 2011.
The last Frenchman standing in Paris sent the decibel levels soaring when he stole back the third and fourth sets but Wimbledon champion Murray was in a hurry to take the fifth and ensure the match did not go into Thursday due to the fading light.
Showing few sign of the back injury that kept him out of last year’s tournament, the seventh seed controlled play from the baseline in the first set, although the 23rd seed gave home fans hope with some returns from improbable angles.
The Scot stormed to a 5-1 lead in the second, but took eight set points to close it out after the game was halted when a ball dropped out of Murray’s pocket during play, sending both players to lobby the umpire before Murray conceded the point.
Murray, who reached his 14th grand slam semi-final, will play defending champion Rafa Nadal in the last four.
Nadal survived David Ferrer’s early fury to advance into the semi-finals with a 4-6 6-4 6-0 6-1 win in a repeat of last year’s final.
World number one Nadal, chasing a record-extending ninth Roland Garros title, had no answer to the fifth seed’s pace on court Suzanne Lenglen in the first set.
But Ferrer, one of three men who have beaten the claycourt machine on his favourite surface this year, ran out of steam in the second, which he narrowly lost before Nadal devoured him.
Nadal won 10 games in a row – and 13 of the last 14 – to wrap it up on his first match point
In the women’s draw meanwhile, ‘twisted soul’ Andrea Petkovic joyously planted a kiss on her racket frame after she battled through drizzle and swirling winds to set up an unlikely French Open semi-final showdown with Romanian Simona Halep.
The 28th seeded German came close to turning her back on tennis a year ago after being hobbled by back, ankle and knee injuries but 12 months on she was getting up close and personal with her racket after blowing Italy’s Sara Errani off court with a 6-2 6-2 win.
“I never kissed my racket before in my life. I don’t know what happened to me. I was just overwhelmed by emotion. I had no boy to kiss, so I kissed my racket,” laughed the bubbly 26-year-old after reaching her first grand slam semi-final.
A match featuring 10 breaks and 32 unforced errors was never going to be pretty and a three-hour rain delay left Roland Garros feeling more like a winter wonderland as temperatures dipped to a chilly 10 degrees Celsius. But Petkovic won the points that mattered.
A match that started with spectators huddled under blankets on Philippe Chatrier Court ended with Petkovic beaming in delight as Errani slapped a backhand wide.
After becoming the first German woman to reach the last four in Paris since Steffi Graf in 1999, a player who is influenced by the writings of a number of philosophers said she would now “like to call Freud and ask him what he thinks about… my twisted soul.”
Such a thought is unlikely to trouble Halep, who will be more interested in concentrating on Petkovic’s tennis skills after she too reached her first major semi-final with an equally scrappy 6-2 6-2 win over 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.
“It was a perfect day for me,” said Halep, who is bidding to become the first Romanian woman to win the claycourt major since her manager Virginia Ruzici achieved the feat in 1978.