'Andy Murray improving but Roger Federer's French Open-winning days are gone'
Andy Murray will relish his quarter-final against home favourite Gael Monfils, says Barry Cowan.
By Barry Cowan
Last Updated: 03/06/14 12:49pm
Obviously his level has got better and better as the tournament has progressed and he will see what a wonderful opportunity he has.
He's got a quarter-final against Gael Monfils, to probably play Rafa Nadal (assuming Rafa beats David Ferrer) in the semi-finals, with all the pressure on Rafa.
He has been more aggressive the past week, even in the match against Philipp Kohlschreiber. That backhand return winner at match point was something Andy wouldn't have hit two or three years ago. I think whatever happens in the next couple of days, the way he's playing is really exciting for Wimbledon.
He's always had the potential to be a great clay court player. When you look at what Andy has - he can hit winners from anywhere with any shot and he now moves really well on the clay.
One of Andy's errors in the past on this surface has been that he loves to be cat-and-mouse too much. You need a certain degree of that, but he's added that cat-and-mouse with the aggressive nature, and he's definitely come on as a clay court player this year in Rome and in Paris.
I know he's made the semis before when he had that run in 2011, but look at how he played against Nadal in Rome and the way he's played in this tournament. He beat Kohlschreiber in five sets - he's a very good clay player who was playing well, was confident and had just won a title.
That kind of situation is where you need to throw the rankings out the window, and I think Andy backed it up again against Verdasco.
It's ironic that in the last year he's beaten Verdasco in five, having been two sets down on the Spaniard's weakest surface, and then beat him in straight sets on Verdasco's strongest surface.
Opposing players won't look at Andy and see that his break point conversion was poor. You can have days when you break four times out of four, and others where it's once out of 16. Obviously if the trend continues then it's a worry, but Andy won't worry himself.
Probably the area Andy will be concerned about from the last two matches is that he was a break up in all five sets against Kohlschreiber, and two sets and a break up as well as having a point for a double break against Verdasco.
That would be the area he definitely needs to tighten up on - you can get away with it against those two, and possibly Monfils because he's up and down mentally, but certainly not against Djokovic, Nadal or Ferrer. Those guys are too good and they will make you pay.
Murray will love the opportunity to play in front of the passionate crowd against Monfils - it's tailor-made for Andy. He's a street fighter and he likes to prove people wrong.
He'll certainly relish the occasion - the French Open quarter-final against a Frenchman, against someone like Monfils who he likes to play because of their styles. I think, to be honest, they both like to play each other - they both like to run and both like to get in long rallies.
If you look at the head-to-head it's massively in Andy's favour, however, Monfils is a wildcard. The way he plays, there's always that fear he's going to come out one day and red line it against anyone. The longer that match goes, though, the more I favour Andy.
For me he's physically stronger and mentally stronger, but if everything clicks Monfils has that ability to play three sets that are unbelievable and can almost take the racket out of your hand.
But my gut feeling is - the way the tournament's gone for Andy and the way he built momentum in Rome - I think he'll come through that match, probably in four but maybe in five.
Then whatever happens in that match with Nadal - if he gets through as we assume he will - it's hugely positive for going into the grass court period.
I've touched on this before, but with the way he's playing at the moment I can't see him making any changes to his coaching team until after Wimbledon.
Coming into the French Open the eyes were on the young, emerging players like Grigor Dimitrov, Kei Nishikori and Ernests Gulbis. All three have had very good runs of late, and it's Gulbis who has stood out. He is that kind of player who has the game and the personality to be able to beat the better players.
I wasn't overly shocked he beat Roger Federer, and I think Roger's days of winning the French Open - in my mind - are gone. I think he would never admit it but he probably knows they're gone.
If you look at Roger's year as a whole it's been very positive, but now here's the real test. The second half of the year is always Roger's strongest part - the conditions at Wimbledon and the US Open are always more favourable to the way he plays now.
He said after he lost 'my mind's already shifted to grass', but he'll be feeling a bit of pressure going into Wimbledon because of what he didn't do last year. I do think, though, that Roger is going to have another good second half of the year.
Milos Raonic is one player who is consistently knocking on the door, and he has another shot today to see where his game is at against the very best.
They played a couple of weeks ago in Rome and Milos played some of the best tennis I've seen, but this is a Grand Slam and he will find it very difficult to stop the tide that is Novak.
With six days to go in the French Open nothing's changed - we've still got the top two playing the best tennis, and certainly looking on course to play the final.