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Shock defeat for Kerber a real wake-up call for Murray


Court out: Andy Murray is struggling to find form on the eve of his T French Open campaign

Court out: Andy Murray is struggling to find form on the eve of his T French Open campaign


Court out: Andy Murray is struggling to find form on the eve of his T French Open campaign

The early rounds of Grand Slams are normally expected to be calm waters for Andy Murray but at the French Open sharks seem to be everywhere. Andrey Kuznetsov, a 26-year-old Russian ranked 85th, is a kind first round draw on paper but the danger signs are there.

He beat Fabio Fognini earlier in the clay season and arrived in Paris fresh from a run to the semi-finals of the Geneva Open and a close match with Stan Wawrinka.

Murray has beaten Kuznetsov in both their previous meetings but lost a set in the third round of the US Open in 2014 and the Russian will seek to exploit his opponent's shaky confidence.

Murray has won only five matches since February and was well beaten by Fognini in the opening round in Rome last week.

A first round loss for his struggling fellow world number one Angelique KerberĀ  yesterday, meanwhile, will have focused minds even more.

The Scot at least has lower expectations on his shoulders this year, and said: "That can (help), but ultimately it doesn't really matter when you get on the court what anyone says, whether it's positive or negative.

"It's how you deal with situations out there. Generally, when you're playing well, you deal with situations better, because you have won matches and you're confident and you're feeling really good.

"When you're struggling a little bit, it's a little bit harder to find your way through tough moments in matches. But that will come."

That has certainly been evident since Murray returned from an elbow injury last month, with the Scot's forehand and serve letting him down at key moments.

He will no doubt have focused on those areas of his game with coach Ivan Lendl this week as well as trying to sharpen his movement.

Lendl's presence generally has a demonstrable effect on Murray's game, with the Scot's loss to Mischa Zverev at the Australian Open in January a rare Grand Slam failure together.

Murray's former coach Brad Gilbert has no doubt other players will now feel Murray is a gettable scalp.

"Andy is definitely playing a little more defensive-minded," said Gilbert in the build up to the French Open.

"Having that balance between offence and defence, that has been an issue. Obviously he hasn't played his normal standard in the big tournaments.

"He hasn't made a quarter-finals yet of any (Masters) 1000 or Australia. Murray owned a lot of guys, you start losing a little bit, guys feel like they have some belief.

"I still think at 30, he's a young 30. He has plenty of time to turn it around. I never saw this bit of a bad patch coming. If you would have told me at the start of the year he would finish the year any lower than two, I would have been surprised.

"Knowing Andy as well as I do, I know one thing. He's not a satisfied guy. He's not materialistic. He loves the fight. He's not about the show and the bling. He loves the guts and working hard."

Murray's Davis Cup team-mate Dan Evans meanwhile had to leave the court to be sick during his first round loss to Tommy Robredo yesterday.

The British number four won the first set in stifling conditions in Paris, but wilted thereafter in a 5-7 6-4 6-3 6-1 defeat against his veteran Spanish opponent.

Things went wrong before the match for Evans, who was caught out by a retirement in the preceding contest on Court 2, resulting in him eating too close to going on court.

After five games he told coach Mark Hilton agitatedly that he could not breathe and, although he won the first set impressively, he was then ill off court.

"I just threw up a little bit," said the 27-year-old. "It was just sitting in my stomach, so I thought it was the best thing to do.

"I actually came out and played pretty good at the start of the second. But it's difficult. I find it especially difficult on my serve on this surface to get on top in the rallies.

"It was hot. I didn't feel good at all. It's not an excuse, but it's just how it was."

Robredo is 35 and ranked down at 271 after injury problems in recent years, but remains a tough customer on clay.

Evans had not played a match on the surface for nearly three years before this season, so certain was he that he could not make it work for his style.

He picked up his first two ATP Tour wins on clay in Barcelona last month, but has surely been counting down the days until he can set foot on grass.

That will be very soon - he has doubles here with Kyle Edmund first - after a performance against Robredo that showed both how far he has come on clay and how far he still has to go.

There were noticeable improvements in his movement and his ground strokes, particularly his single-handed topspin backhand, from which flowed several scintillating winners.

Had Evans held on to an early advantage in the second set, things might have turned out differently, but a poor game at 2-1 gave Robredo some momentum and he never relinquished it.

The Birmingham player is confident he is in good shape for the grass court season, though, and hopes he will benefit from his clay travails.

"I feel good," he said. "I've played a lot of tennis. Obviously, the surface helps me a lot. I don't worry about five sets on the hard or the grass. It was just today was definitely a lot different to what I imagined."

Belfast Telegraph