Twist of fate sees Andy Murray drawn to meet old foe in rematch

Previous Paris clash left both players needing surgery and out of the game

Thursday, 24th September 2020, 7:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th September 2020, 8:18 pm
Andy Murray, left, congratulates Stan Wawrinka on his victory in the 2017 French Open semi-final. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty
Andy Murray, left, congratulates Stan Wawrinka on his victory in the 2017 French Open semi-final. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty

Andy Murray has been drawn to face Stan Wawrinka on his return to the French Open in a remarkable twist of fate.

Murray is back at Roland Garros for the first time since he faced Wawrinka in a five-set semi-final in 2017 that proved the beginning of the end for his troublesome right hip.

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Three operations and more than three years later, Murray, who received a wild card, finds himself up against the powerful Swiss in the first round.

The pair practised together on Court Philippe Chatrier this week, bringing back memories of the gruelling match that also proved costly physically for 2015 champion Wawrinka, who went on to have knee surgery.

It was a headline-grabbing draw for the British players, with British women’s No 1 Johanna Konta up against teenage sensation Coco Gauff.

Sixteen-year-old Gauff is making her main draw debut at Roland Garros having burst into the spotlight at Wimbledon last summer with her run to the fourth round.

Konta, meanwhile, is seeded ninth and will be looking for another strong performance after reaching the semi-finals last year.

British men’s No 1 Dan Evans is looking for his first win at Roland Garros and, as the 32nd seed, would have hoped for an easier draw than former top-10 stalwart Kei Nishikori, who is working his way back from injury.

Cameron Norrie will face a qualifier – potentially fellow British player Liam Broady, who reached the main draw on Thursday – and Heather Watson takes on Italy’s Fiona Ferro. Kyle Edmund, though, has withdrawn from the tournament through injury.

Men’s top seed Novak Djokovic takes on Swede Mikael Ymer while Rafael Nadal, who is bidding for a 13th title in Paris, faces Belarusian Egor Gerasimov and finds himself in the same half of the draw as US Open champion Dominic Thiem, who opens against Marin Cilic.

That means there will be no repeat of the final of the last two years, where Nadal has defeated Thiem.

In the women’s draw, top seed and title favourite Simona Halep takes on Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain and Serena Williams opens against fellow American Kristie Ahn, who she also played in the first round of the US Open.

After his breakthrough in qualifying, Broady thanked Murray for his support.

The Scot was among the few people in the stands for the match at Roland Garros and provided vocal backing for British No 6 Broady as he defeated Marc Polmans 7-6 (5) 6-4 in the third round of qualifying.

It is the first time Broady has made it through qualifying at a slam and he will play in the main draw of one of the four major tournaments for the first time outside Wimbledon.

Broady said: “I started the match pretty bad and then Andy showed up and I think it definitely did help a lot because he is a very loud supporter and for anyone, when Andy Murray’s watching, it can be a bit disconcerting.”

Broady also credited the impact of the Battle of the Brits events, organised by Jamie Murray during the summer, for helping to foster a more supportive environment among British players

“You can’t fault Andy as a tennis player or a human being,” said Broady. “To get to know him a bit better over the last couple of months has been absolutely fantastic.

“During the Battle of the Brits events and since we came out of lockdown I think a lot of the British players have got a lot closer. We’ve got a couple of group chats on WhatsApp and everyone’s been so supportive driving me on, giving me tactics for the players I’ve been playing.”

Broady is guaranteed prize money of at least £54,000, the biggest pay day of his career.

Harriet Dart will not be joining Broady, though, after losing 7-5, 6-2 to Romania’s Irina Bara in the second qualifying round.

Meanwhile, tournament director Guy Forget said organisers are still hoping to have 5,000 fans a day through the gates at Roland Garros.

The French health minister announced new restrictions yesterday limiting crowds at sporting events to 1,000 in several areas including Paris because of a rise in Covid cases.

But Forget said: “We are still hoping to get 5,000 fans. The last we’ve heard officially from the prefecture of police is 5,000 is very, very safe.

“We are playing the tournament on the size of 15 football fields on an outside stadium and we have all the health procedures with the masks, with the gel to clean your hands.

“We’re pretty confident. Everything we’ve done so far was with the agreement of the authorities and we’ll keep on doing so. We’re waiting for 
further notice.”

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