French Open Day 11 matches to watch: Murray-Monfils and Nadal-Ferrer
PARIS -- The French Open quarterfinals will wrap up on Day 11. Play begins at 8 a.m. ET on ESPN2 with Tennis Channel picking up the coverage at 1 p.m. Click here for the order of play, and see the full TV schedule here.
Andy Murray and Gael Monfils take center stage: How big is this match? So big that it bumped a rematch of last year's final between No. 1 and eight-time champion Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer onto Court Suzanne Lenglen. But we'll forgive the French homerism because Monfils is going to need every last fan on Court Philippe Chatrier to help him pull off the upset (second match). And who wouldn't tune in to see Monfils, on home soil with a partisan crowd behind him, take on Murray, whose inner pugilist gets fired up when antagonized?
"I think in the Grand Slams he's played his best tennis here by far," Murray said. "He loves playing in front of a big crowd. He's a great athlete. Maybe the best we have had in tennis. It's going to be an exciting match. I'm sure there will be some fun rallies. There always is when I have played against him."
The relationship between these two dates to their juniors years. As Murray tells it, an 11-year-old Monfils beat him in the semifinals of a tournament in Rouen, France, and then lost to Murray's brother, Jamie, in the final.
"He was the same as he is now," Murray said. "He was just a great athlete, moved unbelievably well, smiling on the court. He enjoyed playing in front of a crowd, even though it was a small crowd. When you're 10, 11 years old playing in front of 40, 50 people, it feels like loads. He's just always been a great entertainer, and he's great for the sport."
The two have not met since 2010 -- Murray leads the head-to-head 3-2 but lost to Monfils in the first round at Roland Garros in 2006 -- and both men are bidding to reach the French Open semifinals for the second time.
Nadal and Ferrer duel again: Different year, different court, same result? With all the questions surrounding his clay-court preparation, Nadal has been flawless so far in Paris. He's the only quarterfinalist who didn't drop a set in the first four rounds, losing only 23 games while facing opponents all ranked outside the top 50.
But Ferrer is going to be a big step up in quality opposition. This is a chance for Nadal to avenge his surprising straight-set loss to Ferrer at the Monte Carlo Master in April -- Nadal's first loss to Ferrer on clay since 2005.
"I am a little bit better than when I was playing against him in Monte Carlo, but he's playing great, too," Nadal said. "He played three weeks in a row [at a] very high level. In Madrid he played great, in Rome he played great, and he's playing great here. He's coming to the match with confidence. ... It will be a tough one."
While his win over Nadal in Monte Carlo turned heads, Ferrer's performance in a three-set loss to Djokovic in the Italian Open quarterfinals last month was even more impressive. Ferrer was fired up, and the two played one of the best clay matches of the season, with Djokovic winning 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.
Ferrer is hoping the weather is drier than the heavy conditions that plagued his final against Nadal last year, when the younger Spaniard won 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.
"I will try to do my best," Ferrer said. "I will try to play aggressively with my forehand."
Simona Halep goes for another milestone, against a former champion: It's surprising to see the highest seed remaining in the women's tournament, No. 4 Halep, and the 2009 champion, No. 27 Svetlana Kuznetsova, get the secondary treatment on Lenglen (first match), while the 2012 finalist, No. 10 Sara Errani, and No. 28 Andrea Petkovic play on Chatrier.
Halep, the 2008 junior champion, is attempting to make her first Grand Slam semifinal. The two have split their four meetings; Kuznetsova won 7-5, 7-6 (4) on an indoor clay court in Stuttgart, Germany, in April.
Kuznetsova has had two good wins over seeded players at Roland Garros, beating No. 5 Petra Kvitova and No. 23 Lucie Safarova, but she's done it mostly on defense. Halep is too consistent to surrender cheap points off errors, which means it's up to Kuznetsova to be aggressive and execute on her big shots when she sees the opening. As well as she's played this clay season, I'm not sure I'm ready to rely on Kuznetsova to come up with the goods.
Sara Errani tries to make it three in a row: A win over Petkovic (first match, Court Philippe Chatrier) would put Errani into her third straight French Open semifinal. They've played twice, both times on Madrid's quick clay, with Errani winning 7-5, 6-1 last month.
Petkovic, 26, has yet to play her best here -- a stomach virus contributed to that -- but she's battled her way into her fourth Grand Slam quarterfinal, taking advantage of a draw that blew up when No. 2 Li Na lost in the first round. Not bad for a player who almost quit last year. A former top-10 player who was derailed by injury, she was at the end of her rope after losing in the second round of qualifying last year.
"I was putting so much pressure on myself to get back to where I was, and it wasn't fun anymore," Petkovic said. "I was just forcing. Everything was work and hard. It wasn't why I started playing tennis. I started playing tennis because I love it, and it's a big part of my life. It brought so much to me and my family. I think it brings so many people together, and it's a nice, a beautiful thing, and it's not something that is ugly and hard and difficult."
She stuck with it, and here we are.