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Sport Andy Murray and Jo Kona handed tough French Open opening round draws

22:46  24 september  2020
22:46  24 september  2020 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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Andy Murray hitting a ball with a racket: MailOnline logo © Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo

Andy Murray and Jo Konta will be given blasts of the past and future at the French Open next week after being handed the most awkward of first round tasks.

Murray meets the past in the form of Stan Wawrinka, the last player he met at Roland Garros in what was the final match he played before his career was engulfed by hip problems.

Konta, semi-finalist of 2019, will get a first look at the precocious talent of Coco Gauff, in what will be the Paris debut of the 16 year-old American. While clay is not Gauff's strong suit it is only the beginning of what looks like a very difficult draw for the GB number one.

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Andy Murray hitting a ball with a racket: Andy Murray has been handed a tough opening draw at the upcoming French Open © Provided by Daily Mail Andy Murray has been handed a tough opening draw at the upcoming French Open Johanna Konta is smiling while holding a racket: Jo Konta also faces a tricky opponent in what will be an awkward opening round for the Brits © Provided by Daily Mail Jo Konta also faces a tricky opponent in what will be an awkward opening round for the Brits

As for the 33 year-old Scot, he will think back to the semi-final of 2017, when he was edged out by the barrel-chested Swiss in five sets. It was during the grass court season that followed when his hip issues first became apparent.

Wawrinka has also experienced difficulty in the meantime, to do with his knees, but he has recovered sufficiently to stand at 17 in the world. His post-lockdown form has been poor, but he will be a formidable opponent when it most matters.

After Kyle Edmund withdrew due to a recurrence of knee problems - which are not believed to be a long-term issue - Dan Evans is the highest ranked British male in the draw, and he will face the unseeded Kei Nishikori.

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Of wider significance in the men's draw was that number three seed Dominic Thiem was placed in Rafael Nadal's half of the draw, which will not disappoint Novak Djokovic.

Stan Wawrinka hitting a ball with a racket: Murray will face Stan Wawrinka, who edged out the Brit in five sets in the 2017 semi-final © Provided by Daily Mail Murray will face Stan Wawrinka, who edged out the Brit in five sets in the 2017 semi-final

Britain's singles entry was boosted by Liam Broady winning his final qualifying round, supported by Andy Murray.

The autumnal rain fell steadily at Roland Garros on Thursday, but that did not stop Murray from trekking out to Court Number three.

Not every double Wimbledon champion makes a habit of doing such things, but he was one of the handful present to cheer on the 26 year-old from Stockport in one of the biggest matches of his life.

It seemed to do the trick, as Broady ended up beating higher-ranked Australian Marc Polmans 7-6 6-4 to come through a Grand Slam preliminary draw for the first time in twelve attempts.

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a person with a racket on a tennis court holding a racquet: Konta will be up against young American star Coco Gauff who rose to fame last year © Provided by Daily Mail Konta will be up against young American star Coco Gauff who rose to fame last year

'He often gives me a bit of stick but I was very appreciative of him coming out to support,' said Broady, who was given a socially distanced volley of congratulations by Murray as soon as he left the court.

'I started pretty badly and then Andy showed up. When a great player like him is watching I think it can be a bit disconcerting for your opponent when they aren't used to it. He helped me out a lot today.'

Broady added that the 'Battle of the Brits' events at Roehampton over the summer had engendered a strong spirit among those playing at the highest level of the tour ins singles and doubles.

'We've got a couple of Whatsapp groups going and it helps drive you on and people are giving each other tactical information about opponents. I am sure Evo (Dan Evans) would have been watching as well but he's doing his self-isolation.'

While Evans was settling into the loose bubble after arriving from the Hamburg tournament, Broady was battling his way to becoming only the fifth British male to qualify for Roland Garros in fifty years.

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Daniel Evans swinging a racket at a ball: Dan Evans is Britain's highest seed at Roland Garros after Kyle Edmund withdrew © Provided by Daily Mail Dan Evans is Britain's highest seed at Roland Garros after Kyle Edmund withdrew

Aside from anything, the guaranteed £55,000 for playing in the first round proper makes a huge difference to someone whose earnings are limited even at the best of times.

'I'd play this tournament for free but it will mean I can have my coach and fitness trainer with me at more tournaments,' now said world number 206 Broady.

Meanwhile Tournament Director Guy Forget pleaded with the French government to allow 5,000 fans per day into Roland Garros, a decision which is subject to a last-minute review.

'5,000 is very safe,' he said. ' We are playing the tournament on a site the size of 15 football fields, with an outside stadium. I am hoping that the next discussions we have will lead us to stay on that path.

'There won't be any interaction between players and fans. I believe we can do a lot better in terms of that than the Tour de France.'

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Video: Players practice at Roland Garros ahead of French Open (Reuters)

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