Murray, Wawrinka face Czech challenge in Paris

By AFP May 23, 2016 11:42

Murray, Wawrinka face Czech challenge in Paris

PARIS: Andy Murray and defending champion Stan Wawrinka start their French Open campaigns on Monday against a pair of fiery Czechs on a day when Roland Garros plays catch-up after a rain-soaked Sunday.

Second seed Murray, a three-time semi-finalist in Paris, takes on 37-year-old Radek Stepanek, the oldest man in the draw and one of a record 51 men over the age of 30 to start the first round.

Murray, buoyed by beating world number one Novak Djokovic to the Rome Masters title on clay on the eve of Roland Garros, holds a 6-2 career record over Stepanek.

But the wily Czech is a former world number eight who is a Grand Slam doubles and Davis Cup champion.

Despite his advancing years, Stepanek came through the qualifying competition and that’s a factor which makes Murray wary of the challenge.

“The qualifiers have played three matches. That’s tough,” said Murray.

“They are probably feeling pretty good about their conditions and comfortable on the courts.”

Stepanek is one of the game’s more entertaining characters whose antics on court occasionally get under the skin of opponents.

Off court, his life is just as colourful — he was engaged to Martina Hingis, married and divorced former player Nicola Vaidisova and briefly dated two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

Wawrinka, who shattered Djokovic’s latest attempt to complete the career Grand Slam with victory in last year’s final, takes on another Czech, Lukas Rosol.

Rosol famously defeated Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2012 and was involved in a bad-tempered clash with Murray in Munich last year when the Scot told the Czech that “everyone hates you”.

Wawrinka defeated Rosol as recently as last Friday in the semi-finals in Geneva on his way to the title.

Roland Garros organisers will attempt to squeeze 54 singles matches into Monday’s programme after heavy rain on Sunday allowed just 10 ties to be completed.

However, more bad weather is expected with torrential rain and temperatures hovering again around the 15-degree mark.

There should be time for Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori to complete his match with Italy’s Simone Bolelli.

Nishikori was leading 6-1, 7-5, 2-1 when play was halted on Court Philippe Chatrier on Sunday.

Victory would give the 26-year-old Japanese his 50th Grand Slam win.

Second seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland starts against Serbia’s Bojana Jovanovski.

Radwanska was a quarter-finalist in 2013 but lost in the first round to Germany’s Annika Beck last year.

Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 champion, resumes against Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan 4-6, 6-1, 3-1.

Fourth seed Garbine Muguruza starts against Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova with a 4-0 career advantage.

But Schmiedlova, the world number 37, made the third round in 2014, defeating Venus Williams on the way.

Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 champion, takes on France’s Oceane Dodin.




By AFP May 23, 2016 11:42


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