PARIS – Former world number one Andy Murray chose to focus on the funny side of his French Open first-round draw against Stan Wawrinka as the pair brace themselves for another battle on the Parisian clay on Sunday.
Murray will be making his first Roland Garros appearance since losing to fellow three-time Grand Slam champion Wawrinka in the 2017 semi-final.
“Obviously it’s an amusing draw,” Murray told reporters. “It would probably have been nicer to play someone different at the beginning, and potentially build your way into the tournament.
“That match I played against Stan a few years ago was a brutal one.”
Murray came out of a gruelling five-setter which lasted over 4-1/2 hours in 2017 with the initial signs of a hip problem that has since proved persistent. His Swiss opponent has also faced lengthy spells on the sidelines and undergone multiple knee surgeries.
“I didn’t know that it was that bad, but then at the end of the Stan match, in the fifth set I was struggling to push up on my serve and moving to my forehand, and I never felt the same after that match,” said Murray.
After career-saving hip re-surfacing surgery, Murray crossed Wawrinka’s path again in last year’s Antwerp final in which the Briton rallied from a set and a break down to lift his first title since 2017.
Earlier this month, Murray battled back from two sets down to defeat Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka in the U.S. Open first round before losing to Canadian youngster Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Heading into this year’s final Grand Slam, Wawrinka was seeded 16th, while Murray needed a wildcard with his ranking still tottering at 111.
Murray accepts there are still question marks over his fitness levels, but he refused to rule out another memorable Grand Slam run in Paris.
“The positive is, you win against Stan in the first round, and it can open things up or make you feel much better as well. So we’ll see what happens on Sunday,” the 2016 runner-up said.