By Ros Satar
Andy Murray meets Joao Sousa for the second time this year in a Slam, and the third time in 2015, as the World No. 3 continues his bid for a first Grand Slam title on clay, while Heather Watson tackles a resurgent Sloane Stephens for the second time this year.[getty src=”474733944?et=wB8RV_soTDhseCJWt78a3A&viewMoreLink=off&sig=PaIKbRflJC6pXrIrJXDaTvX55kfeuLkgaO9sie0f9Ik=&caption=true” width=”594″ height=”396″]
Live coverage of the French Open is on ITV 4 and on British Eurosport
With his withdrawal ahead of his third round match in Rome, Murray is 11-0 on the clay at the moment, with two bits of hardware to his name from Munich and Madrid, and will look to increase his head to head lead over the Portuguese No. 1 player, whom he leads 5-0.
After becoming the first player from his country to win an ATP World Tour title, and rank in the Top 50, Sousa climbed to a career high of 35 last summer and although he has slipped a little in the rankings he had a decent run to the Montpellier semi-final, and then finished as the runner up in Geneva the week before the French Open.
Obviously Murray is becoming a clay legend in the making. OK well maybe that is slightly optimistic, but he is very much more comfortable on the surface, moving and more importantly recovering better after his matches on the clay, and was efficient enough in his opener against Facundo Arguello, despite some very deft touches and some entertaining rallies from the Argentine.
Sousa is certainly not short on confidence, and we can expect him to try his hardest to take his first set off Murray in their five meetings, and the danger is if Murray allows himself to get a little complacent if he starts solidly. One of the reasons he chose to practice for a few days in Barcelona before heading to Munich was to get some time with some of the best clay-courters. Hopefully it will stand him in good stead for a quick advance.
Murray and Sousa are scheduled on Court Philippe-Chatrier, not before 2:30pm CET (1:30pm BST)
For a brief time it looked as though Kyle Edmund’s famous support from his first round match could be a potential third round match up, but sadly Edmund has withdrawn with an abdominal injury, handing Nick Kyrgios a walkover, with the Aussie primed for a rematch after Murray defeated him in Australia earlier this year.[getty src=”474722036?et=Ow1YyFPFTsF-CO6fQI7jWw&viewMoreLink=off&sig=QfE8AnyxGs42EuyS2rS50qeT24B1PXKFls9tGBGhZAE=&caption=true” width=”594″ height=”405″]
Heather Watson will try and extend her head to head lead over Sloane Stephens and has already picked up a win over Stephens this year, on the way to winning the title in Hobart at the start of the season. But since the hard court spring swing, Stephens has picked up her pace, with two solid weeks at Indian Wells and Miami, and preparing nicely for the French Open with a sun to the semi-final of Strasbourg.
Although Watson had a great run to the Indian Wells fourth round, it has been a bit of a slog on the clay for her until a win in Rome and of course her straight sets win over Mathilde Johansson. Their matches prior to Hobart had all been three-setters, so expect this to be a battle.
Watson and Stephens are scheduled on Court 7, not before 4:30pm CET (3:30pm BST).