British Andy Murray attends a training session ahed of the Roland Garros 2017 French Tennis Open on May 26, 2017 in Paris. / AFP PHOTO / Gabriel BOUYS
Andy Murray targets a French Open tonic in the broiling heat of Roland Garros on Tuesday as the 2016 runner-up seeks to get his season back on track.
World number one Murray, who was the first British man to reach the Paris final since 1937 when he lost to Novak Djokovic 12 months ago, faces Andrey Kuznetsov, the world number 85, in his opening round.
The 30-year-old has endured a trying 2017 with bouts of illness as well as an elbow injury conspiring against him and his form.
He suffered a shock fourth round defeat to Mischa Zverev at the Australian Open.
On clay, he lost in the third round in Monte Carlo, made the semis in Barcelona, was a third-round loser in Madrid before an opening defeat in Rome to Fabio Fognini.
Then he fell sick again when he arrived in Paris.
“It’s frustrating — it’s the third time I have been ill this year,” said the Scot.
However, he said he was surprised that he hadn’t been laid low by sickness on many more occasions over his career.
“To be honest, it should happen more really. We are in the locker rooms with lots of players, lots of sweat, lots of germs, you know, in airplanes all the time.”
Kuznetsov, who was once as high as 39 in the world, has lost both his career meetings against Murray and has never got beyond the third round of a Grand Slam.
Two years ago, he was defeated by Rafael Nadal in the last 32.
Swiss third seed Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 winner and reigning US Open champion, starts against Jozef Kovalik.
The Slovakian qualifier, ranked 152, has made the main draw for the first time.
He has won just two matches on the tour in 2017, both coming in Chennai in January when he stunned 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic on his way to the quarter-finals.
His prize money for the year so far is $52,000 — he’s guaranteed $34,000 for making the first round in Paris.
“I have to say I don’t know much about him,” said Wawrinka, who has made at least the quarter-finals in three of his last four trips to the French Open.
In the women’s event, 2014 runner-up Simona Halep, seeded three, faces Jana Cepelova of Slovakia whose only two wins at the tournament came four years ago.
After the shock first round exit of world number one Angelique Kerber, Romania’s Halep is viewed as strong favourite for a maiden Grand Slam title.
Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, who won the Rome title on the eve of Roland Garros, faces Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan.
Svitolina was a quarter-finalist in 2015 but the big-hitting Kazakh also knows her way around Roland Garros, also making the last eight in 2010 and 2012.
The day’s ‘popcorn’ match will see French 15th seed Gael Monfils, a semi-finalist in 2008, clash with flamboyant Dustin Brown of Germany.