Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro both survived stern tests Thursday at the Rio Olympics.
In windy conditions, Murray came out strong against Italian veteran Fabio Fognini but fell apart in the second and went down 3-1 in the third. But the defending gold medalist roared back taking the last five games to win it 6-1, 2-6, 6-3.
“Just happy I got through and I have another opportunity tomorrow to play better, hopefully in easier conditions. It wasn’t a great match, it wasn’t pretty and at times it was really hard. I got through it and I won and that’s all that matters,” Murray said.
“The crowd got into the match for sure, it was a good atmosphere. I hadn’t won a game for 45-50 minutes,” he said. “That doesn’t happen too often. The conditions were making it very, very hard but once I got the momentum I went with it and that was it.”
Murray meets Steve Johnson in the quarters after the American blasted Evgeny Donskoy 6-1, 6-1.
“Anybody you play out here is not going to be a walk in the park,” Johnson said of the quarterfinals. “You go out there, you have a game plan and you make some adjustments. If it doesn’t go well then you have to think on your feet and play a game of chess out there.”
South American favorite del Potro kept his medal hopes alive overcoming a first set deficit to beat Japan’s Taro Daniel 6-7, 6-1, 6-2.
“I expect a difficult match,” said del Potro. “I made a lot of mistakes with my backhand and forehands in the beginning and in the end the crowd helped me a lot to survive and never give up and I think I played much better in the last games,” said del Potro.
Del Potro moves on to face Roberto Bautista Agut who was a winner over Gilles Muller. The Spaniard beat del Potro at the Australian Open a few years ago.
“It has been a great tournament, great week for me but I am looking forward to go far,” the Argentine added. “I am trying to go far to fight for one medal. I’m still playing well but the next round is going to be a really difficult match for me – Bautista Agut plays so good on this surface. He’s very fast from the baseline so I think it’s going to be an interesting match.”
2008 Beijing gold medalist Rafael Nadal advanced into the quarterfinals beating France’s Gilles Simon 7-6(5), 6-3. The two traded breaks in the first, then Nadal took control in the second to improve his record to 9-0 in singles at the Olympics.
“I won, that’s what’s important. I’m in the quarterfinals, which is very good news,” said Nadal. “A few days ago I wouldn’t imagine being in this position, but we have the desire and the energy high to give my best at every moment and that’s what I am doing.”
Afterward, Nadal and his partner Marc Lopez advanced to Friday’s men’s doubles gold medal match. The two will meet Romanians Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau who were winners over American’s Steve Johnson and Jack Sock.
Nadal was scheduled to play in the mixed with Garbine Muguruza but with the heavy load of matches ahead due to the washout Wednesday, he decided to withdraw.
Next for Nadal is Brazilian No. 1 Thomaz Bellucci who surprised David Goffin 7-6(10), 6-4.
“The crowd support me a lot, they motivate me in every match and for me it is amazing to play in this atmosphere,” said Bellucci. “We just play three or four Olympics in the career so for me it is very special to have a chance to play at home. It was amazing to play with the crowd and I have never played in such a stadium at home so for me it is very special.
“So far I am playing very well. The Olympics has been nice for me, I play three matches very well and today Goffin was favourite to beat me but I played really well.”
In the marquee quarter, Gael Monfils battles Kei Nishikori in a match-up of two very in-form players. Nishikori hasn’t dropped a set after crushing Andrej Martin 6-2, 6-2. Monfils advanced in three over former US Open champion Marin Cilic 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-4.
FRIDAY RIO OLYMPICS SCHEDULE
starting at 12:00
(11) KVITOVA Petra (CZE) vs PUIG Monica (PUR)
not before 13:00
(3) NADAL Rafael (ESP) vs BELLUCCI Thomaz (BRA)
(7) KEYS Madison (USA) vs (2) KERBER Angelique (GER)
(5) MERGEA / TECAU (ROU) vs (6) LOPEZ / NADAL (ESP) ** GOLD MEDAL MATCH
starting at 12:00
(12) JOHNSON Steve (USA) vs (2) MURRAY Andy (GBR)
(6) MONFILS Gael (FRA) vs (4) NISHIKORI Kei (JPN)
JOHNSON / SOCK (USA) vs (7) NESTOR / POSPISIL (CAN) ** BRONZE MEDAL MATCH
WILLIAMS / RAM (USA) vs (ITF) VINCI / FOGNINI (ITA)
PEREIRA / MELO (BRA) vs MATTEK-SANDS / SOCK (USA)
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