By Ros Satar
We preview Murray and Watson’s first round matches as all the Brits take to the courts at the French Open on Monday.
Andy Murray v Facundo Arguello
Last year’s semi-finalist, Andy Murray arrives in Paris the proud owner of his first two clay court titles, and starts against Lucky Loser Facundo Arguello.
Live coverage of Roland Garros in the UK is on ITV 4 and Eurosport
Whether it is marriage working, or just finally stars aligning for Murray after taking the decision at the end of 2013 to cut his season short and have back surgery, things seem to be finally coming together for the British No. 1 and World No. 3.
As the tournament got started with the minimum of surprises, Murray leads the entire British singles contingent on Monday with everyone in action scattered about the place. Murray, last on Court Philippe-Chatrier, will take on clay courter Arguello who gained his place as a lucky loser, despite falling in the final round of qualification. The Argentine has spent most of this year plying his trade on the Challenger Circuit, almost exclusively on the clay with his sole foray onto any other surface as a first round qualifying loss to Robin Haase. He has also tasted winning ways in the run up to the French Open, winning the Tallahassee Challenger at the end of April.
Murray has been in rare form on the dirt, returning to the tour after his wedding at the start of April and skipping the Monte Carlo Masters, but choosing to train in Barcelona before travelling to Munich. He explained in Madrid that it had given him the chance to practice against some very good clay courters. It sure paid off although his stint in Spain could not prepare him for the more inclement German weather as the final ended up postponed to the Monday.
Beating Philipp Kohlschreiber in the final, he was then faced with the German once more in a ludicrously scheduled post 1am match in Madrid, but Murray’s game improved match on match, earning him a shot at a second title, where he overcame Rafael Nadal in the final.
Wisely choosing to withdraw in Rome after his opening match, Murray should be well rested and ready to outclass the Argentine. He will certainly want to conserve as much energy as possible, as his draw does not get any easier.
Murray and Arguello are scheduled on Court Philippe-Chatrier, not before 4pm CET (3pm BST).
Elsewhere, Aljaz Bedene takes on newly-crowned Nice champion Dominic Thiem (Court 5, not before 1pm CET/12pm BST), and Kyle Edmund opens his campaign against Stephane Robert on Court 7, not before 4pm CET/3pm BST.
Heather Watson v Mathilde Johansson
Hanging on to her place in the Top 50 despite struggling a little to find her form on the clay, Watson has a chance to turn her head to head around against the French wildcard Johansson. After a couple of years of being in the Top 100, it has been a bit of a slump for the Frenchwoman, who now finds herself outside the Top 200.
She is certainly capable of giving Watson a good work out though. She has been capable of picking up main draw wins from time to time, and has been a regular recipient of a wild-card, but her best performance was in 2012, when she was in the main draw, reaching the third round.
It is at least one round better than the Brit who has been nothing if not consistent with her outings, three times battling to the second round all the way through qualifying, but on her one occasion in the main draw (2013) she dropped in the first round to Stefanie Voegele.
There is no reason why Watson cannot get off to a winning start. She needs to continue her quest to play with a lot of aggression, but since her winning start tpwith her second tour title in Hobart, she has struggled to find any consistency on either the hard or the clay courts, until she got to Indian Wells. An encouraging run to the fourth round was her last best run to date, and she comes into Roland Garros with just one win on the clay in Rome.
Johansson has put in the time and the match wins on the ITF clay in Italy and will have the crowd firmly behind her when they take to the court. It is winnable for Watson, if she can find her form but she has an impossibly hard draw to come, facing the winner of the encounter between Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams next.
Watson and Johansson are scheduled on Court 2, not before 4:30pm CET/3:30pm BST.
Johanna Konta gets her campaign underway against Denisa Allertova on Court 5, also not before 4:30pm CET/3:30pm BST.