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Murray is on his way to quarters at French Open

PARIS--Andy Murray was playing so well, he could even afford to give a point away.

The Wimbledon champion put himself in the middle of an argument between Fernando Verdasco and chair umpire Pascal Maria in the third set of his fourth-round match at the French Open on Monday. But in an effort to de-escalate the budding fracas, he conceded a point to the Spaniard.

It didn't really matter, because the seventh-seeded Murray still won in straight sets, beating Verdasco 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 (3) to reach the quarterfinals at Roland Garros for the fourth time.

“Yeah, I gave him the point,” said Murray, who missed the French Open last year because of a back injury.

The incident started at the end of the seventh game in the third set. Verdasco was broken quickly in the first game, but then saved 11 break points in his next three service games and held to get within 4-3 with a service winner that smacked off the rim of Murray's racket.

As Verdasco walked to his changeover bench, Maria ordered the serve to be retaken because a linesman had called the ball out before Murray made contact. Verdasco, then sitting in his chair, started ranting at Maria, shouting, “Are you kidding me?”

He then called for the supervisor four times, telling Maria he no longer wanted to speak to him.

That's when Murray stepped in and gave the game to his opponent.

“I was just fighting for the ball because I just thought that once I served to the line and Andy returned with the frame to the crowd, Pascal was saying that the lineman was calling out,” Verdasco said. “I said ... he didn't miss the serve because the lineman call out. He missed the serve because, the return, because my serve was to the line and he couldn't hit it with the strings.

“So it was completely out of sense to serve a first serve again. I said to call the supervisor, and Andy said that it was fine, and it was a point for me.”

The rule in tennis is that if a linesman incorrectly calls the ball out before a player makes contact, then the serve should be taken over. That's what Maria had ordered.

“It's a very gray area. Because the call came before I made contact with the ball,” Murray said. “If the call comes before you make contact with the ball, then it's a let.

“I mean, it was a great serve and I mis-hit the ball. It didn't go in.”

Murray was still up a break at the time he conceded the point. Six points later, they were back on serve. And it stayed that way until the tiebreaker, when Murray won the first three points, lost the next three and then won the final four.

Murray, who last year became the first British man to win the Wimbledon title since 1936, will next face Gael Monfils of France, a longtime friend since their time together as juniors.

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Britain's Andy Murray returns the ball during the fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Spain's Fernando Verdasco at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris on Monday, June 2. (AP)

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