Murray to clash with old rival Wawrinka in French rerun
Scot’s hip ordeal began after losing 2017 semi-final to Swiss Draw puts Konta up against American teen prodigy Gauff
This year’s French Open has moved to an unfamiliar position in late September. But for Andy Murray, it must feel as if it has travelled back in time. Yesterday’s draw handed him a rematch with Stan Wawrinka – the man he lost to in the 2017 semifinal here.
That five-set rumble was disappointing for Murray on the day, although he came away reflecting that a run to the last four was a respectable effort after a season disrupted by illness and injury. He never guessed it would be the last match he ever played with a functioning – and organic – right hip.
Murray woke up feeling unusually sore the next morning, even by the standards that these tennis warriors are used to. But as the weeks went by, his hip only hurt more when he expected it to heal. The injury contributed to a limping exit from Wimbledon just over a month later, then set him off on the bumpy road of operations and rehab that has continued ever since.
And Murray was not the only one. This was a Pyrrhic victory for Wawrinka. He barely troubled the scorers against an inspired Rafael Nadal in the 2017 French Open final, then drew a blank on the grass before undergoing double knee surgery later that year. After beating Murray in that infamous semi-final, he would not win another match until the 2018 Australian Open.
As it turns out, the knee is easier for doctors to access and repair than the hip. So while Murray now finds himself negotiating uncharted waters as the only man on tour with a metal hip, Wawrinka has recovered enough of his old vigour to be seeded No16 here. In three of his past four slams, he has reached the quarter-finals.
Murray was not the only Briton to draw an intriguing opponent yesterday, as Johanna Konta was paired with teen sensation Coco Gauff. Admittedly, Gauff has picked up only a single victory in her last three tournaments and her rebuilt serve has yet to settle down into a consistent pattern. But she is a ferocious competitor who is highly tactically astute. Both women’s last outing came against Garbine Muguruza in Rome, and both lost in three sets.
Among the other British men, Dan Evans drew Kei Nishikori – another big name coming back from injury – but Kyle Edmund chose to withdraw after a recurrence of the chronic knee pain which blighted his 2019 campaign. According to his camp, Edmund has a treatment plan in mind, and did not want to risk aggravating the issue so badly that it wiped out the rest of his season.
Finally, British No6 Liam Broady scored a straight-sets victory yesterday over Australia’s Marc Polmans to complete a successful week in qualifying and earn a place in the main draw. Afterwards, he said that Murray’s arrival in the stands as a spectator had helped to lift his mood.
“I started the match pretty badly,” said Broady, “then Andy showed up and I think it definitely helped a lot. He is a very loud supporter. I have got to know him a bit better over the last few months and it’s been absolutely fantastic.
“The abuse I got, at the second Battle of the Brits especially, probably made it easier to remain calm in stressful situations this week.”
Reach: Andy Murray practises at Roland Garros yesterday before Sunday’s French Open start