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Murray suddenly under the spotlight

WHEN third seed Andy Murray steps on court for his French Open quarter-final against Fernando Gonzalez today, he will suddenly find himself under the spotlight.

During the first nine days of the claycourt major, Murray was barely noticed as he slipped into the last eight but the shock exit of Rafael Nadal has totally changed the dynamics.

The Briton is now the highest seed left in the top half of the draw and, on paper at least, is favourite to reach Sunday's final.

Although it is a tall order for someone who until this week had never strung together four wins on clay, Murray will be keen not to let the chance slip through his fingers.

Asked about how he would tackle Chile's Gonzalez in their first meeting on red dirt, the 22-year-old said: "He's very unpredictable, which makes it tough to play against him.

"He's got a huge forehand, serves well. He loves playing on clay. He's going to be a very difficult match."

The winner will face Russian 10th seed Nikolay Davydenko, Roger Federer's tip for the final from that half of the draw, or Nadal's conqueror Robin Soderling.

Belarussian Victoria Azarenka, who beat champion Ana Ivanovic in the previous round, is likely to have endured a sleepless night as she gets ready to face champion-elect Dinara Safina in the first match on Centre Court.

The Russian world number one has dropped just five games in total and won four love sets en route to the last eight and is primed to leave another opponent red-faced as she looks to improve on her 2008 runner-up finish.

Former world number one Maria Sharapova's patched-up shoulder appears to be holding up well as she has survived four successive three setters and will be ready to go the distance again if it means she can reach the semis. Standing in her way is Slovak 20th seed Dominika Cibulkova.


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