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Murray on form and set to take on game's biggest hitters

By Paul Newman

It is just as well that Andy Murray has one of the best returns of serve in the business.

The draw for the French Open, which starts here tomorrow, has put the world No 2 on a collision course with Ivo Karlovic and John Isner, two of the most powerful servers in the game, in the third and fourth rounds.

With the big-hitting Stan Wawrinka a potential semi-final opponent, Murray could have his defences tested to the full over the next fortnight.

The draw, nevertheless, has not been too unkind to Murray, who has been enjoying the best clay-court season of his career so far, capped by victory over Novak Djokovic in the Rome Masters final last weekend.

Murray should have comparatively straightforward matches in his first two rounds. He will start his campaign against a qualifier with the winner to face either France's Mathias Bourgue, the world No 165, or another qualifier in the second round.

If the players live up to their seedings and Murray finds a way past Karlovic and Isner, he will face Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals. The Japanese has had a very good clay-court season so far but has won only one of his seven meetings with Murray.

Wawrinka, who is the defending champion, has a much better record against Murray, having won seven of their 15 meetings.

In their matches at Grand Slam events Wawrinka has beaten Murray twice at the US Open, while the Scot has beaten the Swiss once in New York and once at Wimbledon.

Djokovic is the No 1 seed and is in the other half of the draw with Rafael Nadal, who faces tricky encounters in the third and fourth rounds against Fabio Fognini and Dominic Thiem.

Djokovic looks to have an easier passage in the early stages but could meet Tomas Berdych or David Ferrer in the quarter-finals. Djokovic and Nadal are seeded to meet in the semi-finals.

The two other British men in the main draw, Aljaz Bedene and Kyle Edmund, both play qualifiers in the first round. Bedene could meet Djokovic in the third round, while Edmund could face Isner in his second match.

Johanna Konta meets the 27-year-old German, Julia Goerges, in the first round.

If Konta wins she would face Monica Puig or Olga Govortsova in the second round. The Briton is seeded to face Madison Keys in the third round, with Angelique Kerber, the Australian Open champion, a potential opponent in the fourth.

Laura Robson, playing with a "protected" world ranking after her long absence following wrist surgery, has a tough first-round draw against Germany's Andrea Petkovic, the world No 31, a semi-finalist here two years ago.

Heather Watson faces Nicole Gibbs, the world No 72. The winner could face Svetlana Kuznetsova, a former champion here, in the second round.

Naomi Broady, who is in the main draw of a Grand Slam by dint of her world ranking for the first time, meets Coco Vandeweghe, the world No 40.

The 24-year-old American, who has never played Broady before, has won only one match in four previous appearances here.

The winner will face Bethanie Mattek-Sands or Irina-Camelia Begu in the second round.

Serena Williams begins the defence of her title against Magdalena Rybarikova and is seeded to meet Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals.

Belfast Telegraph


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