Andy Murray has been drawn in the same half as ‘King of clay’ Rafael Nadal and world number one Novak Djokovic in this year’s French Open.
Murray, seeded third for the tournament, faces some tricky looking ties but the draw could have been nastier for the Scot.
The real big talking point is the possibility of a mouth-watering heavyweight Quarter Final between Djokovic and Nadal.
There is a renewed optimism about how far Murray can go in this year’s French Open after what has been an impressive clay season for the 2013 Wimbledon winner. He has a record of ten wins and zero defeats on a surface that has been seen as his Achilles heel for much of his career.
He won his first title on clay in Munich at the start of the month before defeating Nadal in his native country of Spain to win the Madrid Masters just a week later.
“I’ve played well at Roland Garros in the past, but my game wasn’t ready to win there.” Said Murray, following his Madrid win last week.
“I’ve played Rafa a few times on clay, and this obviously gives me confidence. I don’t go in as one of the favourites, but if I play like this I’ll give myself an opportunity and that is all you can ask.”
The Scot will potentially have to get past the likes of the energetic Australian Nick Kyrgios, hard-hitting American John Isner, and the resilient Spaniard David Ferrer in order to make it to the Semi finals, where he will face the winner of that probable blockbuster between Nadal and Djokovic.
Nadal, who has won at Roland Garros an incredible nine times, has beaten Djokovic in two of the last three finals. However the Serb is on a current 22 match unbeaten run and looks set to add the only grand slam trophy missing from his illustrious trophy cabinet come June 7th.
It would be the first time in nine years that the pair would face off at the Quarter Final stage, ironically that match was also played in Paris.
“It’s strange because it hasn’t happened in a very long time.” Said Nadal following the draw.
“But at the end of the day, I have four matches before the quarter-finals and I need to be ready for that first round. I am ready to fight again and we will see.”
Nadal has struggled since his return to the court following a wrist injury he suffered last year. After that defeat to Murray in the Madrid Masters, the Spaniard lost to Stan Wawrinka in the Italian Open at the Quarter Final stage. His ranking has since dropped to seventh, meaning that this year is the first time he heads into Roland Garros since 2005 without being one of the top four seeds. But bare in mind 2005 was Nadal’s maiden French Open victory. The Spaniard has won the tournament five years on the trot so he can’t be underestimated.
Currently though, the momentum is certainly with Djokovic, which may well be enough to see him over the line. The world number one won his fourth Italian Open this year, beating veteran Roger Federer in the final. The 27 year old is arguably in the form of his life and it will take a huge effort to deny him that first Roland Garros title.
“I don’t know how it will go at Roland Garros, but I’m very confident,” said a very down to earth Djokovic, who knows that it won’t be plain sailing in order to win the tournament.
Federer will also have certain challenges to overcome if he is to win his first French Open title since 2009. The Swiss legend could come up against fellow countryman Wawrinka in the last eight should he make it that far. However, he will also have Ernests Gulbis, the man who knocked him out of the competition last year, in his section. Gulbis was the surprise package at Roland Garros last year as he made it through to the Semi Finals before being defeated by Djokovic.
Federer may also have to deal with both opponent and crowd, as French star Gael Monfils could be a potential fourth round opponent.
Federer though has been quick to say he thinks that his greatest foe will once again triumph in Paris.
“He’s (Nadal) still one of the fittest guys on tour, he’s won Roland Garros nine times and he definitely deserves to be one of the favourites,” he said.
“The guy’s only lost their once in 10 years!”