Jurgen Melzer's French Open dream continued on Monday when the Austrian reached the quarter-finals of the claycourt grand slam with a 7-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over the Russian qualifier Teimuraz Gabashvili. The 22nd-seeded Melzer, the first Austrian to reach the last eight in Paris since Thomas Muster in 1998, proved more consistent on another gloomy morning to prevail after two hours and 54 minutes.
Gabashvili missed three set points in the opener as he dropped his first set of the tournament, but levelled the match with some eye-catching winners. Melzer, making his first appearance in a grand slam last 16, then took command, cantering through the third set before breaking serve decisively in the ninth game of the fourth to secure his path through to the last eight. Melzer, at 29 the oldest player remaining in the men's draw, will next face the world No 3, Novak Djokovic, for a place in the semi-finals.
A player who likes to go to the net, Melzer could not be more different from his Austrian idol Thomas Muster, who won the French Open in 1995 but never made it past the first round at Wimbledon. "Playing wise, I mean, we are like day and night, so of course I was not imitating his style, because I just have a different game," Melzer said in his post-match press conference. "But still, as an athlete, he was an idol. I mean, growing up playing tennis you have a No 1 in the world in your country. If that's not your idol, something is wrong with you."
Elsewhere, Nicolas Almagro pummelled fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco into submission to set up a quarter-final showdown with the world No 2 Rafael Nadal. The 24-year-old blasted away from the baseline with his strong forehand, advancing 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, in two hours and 12 minutes on Court Suzanne Lenglen. Seventh seed Verdasco looked jaded in his 43rd tour match of the season and only during the second set did he offer much resistance against a player he beat at Roland Garros last year.
Almagro, who has matched his run to the last eight in 2008, sealed victory on his first match point when a Verdasco forehand landed fractionally beyond the baseline. * Agencies