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Friday, 16 November, 2018

Revitalised Murray can start quickly in Nishikori test

World number one growing stronger

Andy Murray plays a backhand during practice
1 of 1

Day 11
ITV4 and Eurosport, from 1pm Wednesday

Murray v Nishikori
World number one Andy Murray is growing stronger as the tournament progresses and his rejuvenation should continue against Japanese ace Kei Nishikori, who is not at his happiest on clay.

Having harboured significant doubts about his form leading into Roland Garros, Murray has played himself into contention and he  seems to be back in peak shape mentally and physically.

Murray arrived in Paris battling illness and having suffered a second-round exit to Fabio Fognini in Rome and a surprise defeat to Croat Borna Coric in Madrid, but his determination to be the best has triggered a dramatic change in his fortunes.

The Briton has saved arguably his two brightest performances of the season for when it has mattered most on the big stage. A straight-sets win over the dangerous Juan Martin del Potro in the third round highlighted Murray’s upturn in form before the world number one confirmed his return by defusing the power of rising Russian Karen Khachanov on Monday.

The speed of Nishikori provides a different test but one Murray should pass with flying colours. Last year’s runner-up leads the world number nine 8-2 in their personal series and he has won both of their previous clay meetings.

Murray is understandably a short price to reach the last four but punters can trigger the value by supporting the Brit to clinch the opening set before going on to win the match.

Nishikori has dropped sets in three of his four matches, losing the opener in victories against Fernando Verdasco and Thanasi Kokkinakis, and a similarly slow start against Murray would surely be punished.

Recommendation
A Murray to win first set and the match
2pts 8-15 bet365

Wawrinka v Cilic
Three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka saves himself for the biggest of occasions and the Swiss warrior can show his true colours by defeating Marin Cilic.

The 2015 Roland Garros hero has struggled for form since pushing compatriot Roger Federer close in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, but he has once again shown he saves his best for the top tournaments.

Wawrinka, armed with his graceful one-handed backhand, is yet to drop a set in his bid to regain his title and the Swiss ace displayed his intent with a smooth win over home hope Gael Monfils in the last round.

The 32-year-old had been disappointing on clay this term but he clinched a title in Geneva in preparation for Paris and has peaked at the perfect time.

Wawrinka has dominated the last seven meetings with the Croat and has proved too good in all three of their clay encounters.

Cilic has had little trouble reaching the last eight but he’s yet to face a seeded player and is fancied to be found out.

The Croat has a poor record on the slower terrain – this quarter-final appearance is his best in the French Open to date – and Stan the Man should progress with the minimal of fuss.

Recommendation 
S Wawrinka -3.5 games
1pt 4-5 Betfair, Paddy Power

Halep v Svitolina
Simona Halep is still chasing her first Grand Slam title but the classy Romanian has reached the last eight at Roland Garros in effortless style and keep her dreams alive with victory over Elina Svitolina.

Halep, a beaten finalist three years ago, crushed clay-lover Carla Suarez Navarro to tee up this clash and given the Romanian had lost all four of their meetings on the slower terrain, that win looks even better.

The third seed is shorter than may have been expected but she’s yet to drop a set on the red courts of Paris, while Svitolina limped past qualifier Petra Martic in the last round and has not been challenged by a top-20 performer.

Consistency is often a problem for Halep but she looks hungry for success and may be worth backing to get the job done swiftly.

Karolina Pliskova looks too short at 4-7 to defeat local Caroline Garcia in today’s other quarter-final.

Recommendation
S Halep to win 2-0
1pt 10-11 general 

The Briton has saved arguably his two brightest performances of the season for when it has mattered most on the big stage
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