© Peter Staples/ATP World Tour

Andy Murray edges past Juan Martin del Potro in the third round at Roland Garros.

Murray Defuses Del Potro To Reach Fourth Round

World No. 1 advances to 25th consecutive Grand Slam fourth round

World No. 1 Andy Murray overcame an offensive assault from Juan Martin del Potro to book his spot in the Round of 16 at Roland Garros on Saturday.

Murray secured his place in the second week with a 7-6(8), 7-5, 6-0 victory, prevailing after a tense two hours and 53 minutes. He spoiled del Potro's 100th Grand Slam match, firing 44 winners and converting six of 17 break chances.

Last year's runner-up Murray is into the fourth round for the eighth time in 10 appearances on the Parisian clay. The Scot avoided a third consecutive four-set affair to open the tournament, but was still made to work against the former World No. 4 del Potro.

"It was definitely [my best match] during the clay court season," said Murray. "I played some good matches at the beginning of the year, but definitely in the clay-court season, the second and third sets were the best I have played. 

"It was obviously an important win for me and a big match, because Juan, when he's playing well, is one of the best players in the world. To be playing him this early on in a slam is not easy, but it can be a very positive thing. When you play someone that good, maybe you're a little bit more switched on and your focus is maybe a little bit higher."

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The drama was palpable on Court Philippe Chatrier on Saturday and the two titans did not disappoint, producing a masterclass opening set that lasted nearly an hour and a half. Murray withstood a barrage of baseline blows to overcome a break deficit and save set points at 5-3 and with del Potro serving for the opener at 5-4. 

The top seed would break back and later turned aside two more set points in the ensuing tie-break - at 7/6 and 8/7 - before striking a sublime drop shot winner to edge ahead 9/8. Murray would snatch the set on the next point as a del Potro forehand landed just wide. The drama built to a crescendo as chair umpire Carlos Bernardes called over the linesman to confirm the call, sealing the opener for Murray. Del Potro hung over the net in disappointment after a pulsating one hour and 25 minutes.

"I couldn't believe that set, that I lost that set, because I had many opportunities to win," said Del Potro. "I have been playing great points during the whole first set. But this happens when you play against the No. 1 in the world or a great champion as Andy, you never know when you can win a set or a match."

The Argentine's level would dip as the second set got underway, conceding the immediate break with three forehand unforced errors. Murray dropped just four points through his first four service games and held his nerve despite being broken back while serving for the set at 5-4. The top seed would strike his fourth ace to take a two-set lead and he stepped on the gas in the third set, breaking three times to seal the win after nearly three hours.

Following two intense meetings in 2016, with Murray taking the gold medal match at the Rio Olympics and del Potro emerging in five sets in the Davis Cup semis, the rivalry has ramped up significantly in the past year. The World No. 1 extended his FedEx ATP Head2Head lead to 7-3.

Murray, who is looking to regain his footing on clay after early defeats at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events in Madrid and Rome, will face either 21st seed John Isner or #NextGenATP star Karen Khachanov next. He has now reached the Round of 16 or better in 25 consecutive Grand Slam appearances.

Del Potro, meanwhile, will leave the French capital with head held high after returning to the clay-court Grand Slam for the first time since 2012. He falls to 14-7 at Roland Garros.

"I love what happened today on court. I am so happy to see the crowd cheering for me at this level," added Del Potro. "I missed this tournament for the last five years, so I will go home with great memories from the people, from the friends, fans and also the Argentinian fans which were there. Hopefully next year I can be in better shape with a better level of tennis."

Go inside the tournament at RolandGarros.com.

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