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Murray sets sight on semifinals but faces dangerous foe in Nishikori


In the on-going French Open, Andy Murray is being buoyed by the mantra “one game at a time.’’

After demolishing Russian Karen Khachanov to advance to a seventh Open quarter-final appearance, the world No.1 hopes to claim another scalp on the way to the semifinals.

Standing as roadblock in the next round is Japanese eighth seed Kei Nishikori, Murray’s favorite whipping boy.

And if he stays true to that billing, Nishikori will end up packing his bag. Unless of course her comes up with a spectacular game to post a king-size upset over the in-form Scot.

Sir Andy brushed aside Khachanov in clinical style, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, to register his 650th Tour-level win after in two hours and four minutes.

In contrast, Nishikori fought back from losing the first set big time to upend Spain’s Fernando Verdasco, 0-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-0.

The 30-year-old Murray holds an 8-2 advantage in his head-to-head showdowns with Nishikori but as everyone knows that everything happens in all sports, the latter should not be taken lightly.

Nishikori will be confident of ousting Murray, more so after he won their last meeting in the quarter-final of a Grand Slam.

The Japanese stunned the reigning Wimbledon champion in the last-eight of the US Open and he will be carrying that momentum when they trade strokes again, this time at Roland Garros.

Murray, who appeared to have shaken off his previous elbow injury, knows it won’t be a walk in the park when he tackles the 27-year-old Nishikori, the 2014 US Open runner-up that made him the first male player from Asia to advance to a Grand Slam singles final.

Against Murray, he is expected to rely mainly on his dependable two-handed backhand, who is said to be on par with that of Murray’s and Novak Djojkovic’s.

However, Murray’s all-court game and defensive baseline play can neutralise Nishikori and the latter knows this as well.

Murray, who lost to Djokovic in last year’s final, is inching closer to reign supreme in this clay court event.

He was unconvincing in his wins in the first and second rounds but suddenly became convincing in the third when he dispatched Juan Martin del Potro. His victory over Khachanov could be a sign he is back in his best form.

But to prove this, he must get past Nishikori first and then ponder on the next round.

On the same breadth, Nishikori must play much better than he displayed against Verdasco.

After all, Murray now looks like an imposing Mont Blanc for the Japanese to conquer.