French Open 2016: How Far Can Andy Murray Seriously Go At Roland Garros?
With less than a fortnight to go until the action gets underway, tennis fans from across the globe are already licking their lips at the prospect of what should be a fascinating second Grand Slam of the year. For British supporters, all hopes will placed firmly on the shoulders of Andy Murray.
The British number one has crashed out at the last four stage in each of the past two years and will be widely expected to fall just short once again in 2016. In truth, though, this could be his best chance to finally rack up a third Grand Slam title with a victory that would see him become the first Brit to rule the clay courts of Paris in the Open era.
Unlike the WTA event, which looks perfectly poised for Serena Williams to equal Steffi Graf’s record of 22 singles titles before a ball has even been hit, the Men’s event should provide plenty of thrills and spills along the way. Could this finally play into Murray’s hands?
Dutch website www.grandslamtoernooi.nl has suggested that a resurgent Rafael Nadal will be ready to challenge favourite Novak Djokovic on his beloved clay, particularly after rebuilding confidence with multiple ATP event wins during the build up to the big one at Roland Garros. However, Murray’s straight sets win over the Spaniard in Madrid shows that, despite the fact it would be a completely different challenge should he meet the nine-time winner in Paris, he has nothing to fear in that department.
Meanwhile, his final performance against Djokovic in Madrid provided more positives than negatives, even if the Serb did clinch the title. Likewise, the fact he took the world number one to five sets in last year’s semi-final underlines the feeling that, with a little luck on his side, he could defeat his long-term tormentor. Unfortunately, as per The Mirror, the result did see him slide to number three in the world rankings, which could potentially leave him facing the favourite at the same stage as last year’s elimination.
But if the Brit is to reign supreme in Paris, he’ll almost certainly face the man who beat him in the year’s first Grand Slam final at the Australian Open at some stage. In some ways, it may benefit Murray to remove the occasion of a final. Of course, there would be plenty of other tests en route to lifting the crown, but Murray can be confident against anyone.
As dominant as he has been on the clay surface, Nadal isn’t the force he once was; it would take a brave man to rule the Spaniard out completely, but reaching double figures at Roland Garros does appear to be one step too far. Similarly, a 34-year-old Roger Federer is in decline. The classy Swiss hasn’t tasted Grand Slam victory since Wimbledon 2012 and would be unlikely to add to his solitary 2009 victory in Paris, particularly if his back doesn’t heal.
Compatriot, and defending champion, Stan Wawrinka will clearly be eager to retain his crown, but a repeat victory would be almost as shocking as last year’s. A clutch of other stars will be hoping to cause a surprise, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Kei Nishikori and Nick Kyrgios all capable of putting on a show. Nevertheless, Murray would be optimistic against any of those players.
The bookies don’t often get things wrong, and their prices give a clear indication that Murray will need to be at his very best to break Britain’s Open era duck in Paris. Having said that, it would be a huge shock if he didn’t at least match his performances from 2014 and 2015. From that position, anything is possible.
Would we be willing to definitely say Murray will win? No. But there’s nothing to suggest this can’t be the Brit’s best performance in 2016. If he can match Djokovic, another piece of history may be awaiting the 28-year-old Glaswegian.