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Full of angst, Murray into French Open SF against '15 champ

PARIS — Yelling at his entourage and muttering to himself, Andy Murray alternated between brilliant and bad for the better part of two sets before righting things to reach his fourth French Open semifinal.

The No. 2-seeded Murray overcame his own frustration as much as his French opponent and a partisan crowd Wednesday, beating No. 9 Richard Gasquet 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-0, 6-2 at Court Philippe Chatrier.

Murray, a two-time major title winner, will take on defending champion Stan Wawrinka, who easily eliminated 55th-ranked Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (7).

Murray ran his winning streak to 10 matches, all on clay. This one did not come easily, though. He led 5-2 in each of the first two sets before letting those leads slip away, getting broken while serving for both at 5-3. And he trailed 3-1 in the second-set tiebreaker, a critical moment.

"It was a very physical match, up to that point," Murray said, "and it would have been very difficult to come back if I'd lost the second."

He didn't, seizing control by taking the last six points of the tiebreaker, then grabbing 12 of the final 14 games.

Hoping to see Gasquet become the first Frenchman to hoist the trophy since Yannick Noah in 1983, spectators urged him on with repeated choruses of "Ree-shard!" They even loved a tremendous point Gasquet lost, when he wound up flat on his back, leaving his arms, legs, shirt, socks and shoes caked with the rust-colored dirt.

Murray's white hat was smudged with clay, too. His entire being was smothered with angst.

He pointed at his temple. He screamed, "Hit it! Just hit it!" He looked up the folks in his guest box, including coach Jamie Delgado, and shouted various complaints, mostly craving more feedback.

Wawrinka said he saw a bit of the entertainment offered by Murray and Gasquet before heading out on court. His victory was over so quickly — it lasted less than 2 hours; Murray's went nearly 3½ hours — that he would get a chance to catch the end of that other quarterfinal.

"It's ideal for me," Wawrinka said.

What was truly ideal for the French Open as a whole was that there was so much action and nary a rain delay. Because of showers, zero points were played Monday, and only about 2 hours' worth were contested Tuesday.

The quarterfinals in the top half of the men's draw were finally established: No. 1 Novak Djokovic against No. 7 Tomas Berdych, and No. 12 David Goffin against No. 13 Dominic Thiem. All the rain tightened the schedule to the point that players could have to compete several days in a row to get to the final, instead of enjoying a major's usual off-days.

With more wet weather in the forecast, the prospect of completing the tournament by Sunday is iffy.

"Not much ... you can do about the weather," said Djokovic, aiming to win his fourth consecutive major trophy and complete a career Grand Slam.

After his 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-5 victory over No. 14 Roberto Bautista Agut, which was suspended in the third set Tuesday, Djokovic continued his charm offensive with the fans.

He cajoled a ball boy to join him in bowing for the spectators. Then Djokovic donned a yellow rain hat handed to him by Fabrice Santoro, a former player who conducted the post-match interview.

Earlier, in women's fourth-round matches originally slated for Monday, No. 9 Venus Williams lost, while her sister, No. 1 Serena, won.

With the temperature around 60 degrees (16 degrees Celsius), Venus warmed up in a zipped-up gray coat, something that seemed more appropriate for winter wear. She came up short in a bid to get to the quarterfinals at Roland Garros for the first time in a decade, dropping eight games in a row during a 6-2, 6-4 loss to No. 8 Timea Bacsinszky.

Venus slipped to her knees at the baseline on one point, and produced only six winners, compared to 24 unforced errors.

"The first few games she made some errors," Williams said, "and in the last 12 games, I made all the errors."

Bacsinszky will play 58th-ranked Kiki Bertens, whose first Grand Slam quarterfinal came via a 7-6 (4), 6-3 victory over No. 15 Madison Keys.

Defending champion Serena defeated 18th-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-1, 6-1. Serena looked very much like a 21-time Grand Slam champion facing a 21-year-old who has only reached one major quarterfinal, and now faces unseeded Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan.

"Of course she's the best player," Putintseva said. "She's a legend."

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