Murray must beat the best to best best at Roland Garros

 Roger  Federer seems to have recovered from the shock of going out in the first round in Rome and could play Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals aof the French Open at Roland Garros. Photograph:  Julian Finney/Getty Images

Roger Federer seems to have recovered from the shock of going out in the first round in Rome and could play Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals aof the French Open at Roland Garros. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

 

Andy Murray will probably have to beat the Australian Open champion, Stanislas Wawrinka, the Parisian king, Rafael Nadal, and the favourite, Novak Djokovic, to win the French Open, if form and logic still count in a season of mounting uncertainty.

No fall of the dice was going to make a monumental task any easier, but at least yesterday’s draw handed the Scot a first-round opponent he has beaten in their only encounter, when he conceded only two games six years ago on the hard court of St Petersburg: Andrey Golubev, the 26-year-old Kazakh, ranked 55 in the world. However, Golubev did beat Wawrinka in the Davis Cup in April.

Philipp Kohlschreiber and the injured Richard Gasquet are other potential roadblocks for Murray, seeded seventh here in the absence of Juan Martín del Potro, who is still recovering from a wrist injury.

Murray has been to the quarters or better three times in Paris – including the semis three years ago – and, although his form has flickered since his return from back surgery, he showed the very best of it in losing to Nadal in three high-quality sets in the quarter-finals in Rome last week.

If the world number eightdoes well, his ATP ranking points will receive a welcome boost, given he missed Roland Garros last year. Drubbed Nadal, chasing his ninth French Open title but arriving here with three clay-court defeats in a season for the first time in a decade, is on course for a quarter-final against the man he drubbed in last year’s anti-climactic final, David Ferrer. Nadal’s first match should be a stroll, against the 31-year-old American, Robby Ginepri, 276 places adrift of him in the rankings.

Beyond Ginepri, however, is one of the emerging young players who have made the season a bit of a lottery, the Austrian Dominic Thiem, who beat Wawrinka in Madrid and earlier in the year took Murray to three sets in Rotterdam. However, he has not played since handing Feliciano López a walkover in Madrid.

Nadal expressed minor concern that the newly laid clay at Roland Garros had yet to settle. “It was moving around a bit too much when I practised on it yesterday,” he said, “and some small stones made movement a little bit more difficult. But they will probably be ready for tomorrow”. Shortening Djokovic, whose odds are shortening in some markets, will probably have to negotiate a quarter-final against Milos Raonic, whom he beat in a two-tie-break struggle in the semi-finals in Rome.

The Serb, his wrist injury apparently healed and closing on Nadal fast in the rankings, first meets the talented Portuguese João Sousa, whom he walloped at the 2013 US Open.

Roger Federer seems to have recovered from the shock of going out in the first round in Rome and could play Tomas Berdych in the quarters. His first-round opponent is Lukas Lacko, the Slovak who is ranked 88th.

As Federer remarked in defeat in Rome: “The draw means nothing if you still have to play the best players to win the tournament.” Untroubled That mantra is one with which the defending women’s champion, Serena Williams, would agree. Arriving here on the back of an untroubled week in Rome, she plays French wildcard Alizé Lim in her first match.

Her sister Venus is in her quarter of the draw, which might make life interesting in the first week.

Maria Sharapova, seeded seventh, is a potential quarter-final opponent. She plays a qualifier first.

In the nearby side of the draw, the threats should come from third seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who opens against Zhang Shuai.

Lined up against them on the other side are second seed Li Na, who plays France’s Kristina Mladenovic first, and then heads for a likely semi-final against Petra Kvitova.

But a lot of eyes will be on the fourth seed, Simona Halep, who played well against Sharapova in the Madrid final two weekends ago, and here starts against the Russian Alisa Kleybanova.

Lurking on that side of the draw is Caroline Wozniacki, who must bear the glare of the media after her break-up this week with golfer Rory McIlroy, as well as the challenge of the Belgian Yanina Wickmayer in the first round. –Guardian Service

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