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Page last updated at 14:43 GMT, Friday, 22 May 2009 15:43 UK

Murray lands tricky French opener

FRENCH OPEN
Venue: Roland Garros Date: 24 May - 7 June
Coverage: Live on BBC Red Button, live streaming and daily text commentary on BBC Sport website, updates on BBC Radio 5 Live plus second week commentary on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra. TV coverage on Eurosport.


Andy Murray
Clay-court specialist Chela could prove a tough draw for Murray

British number one Andy Murray faces a potentially tricky opening to his French Open campaign after being drawn against Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela.

Ex-world number 15 Chela, now ranked 205, is a clay-court specialist and may trouble new world number three Murray.

The Scot could go on to face four-time champion Rafael Nadal in the semis.

Britain's leading woman Anne Keothavong opens against world number one Dinara Safina, with compatriot Melanie South playing an as-yet unnamed qualifier.

It is the toughest possible draw for world number 56 Keothavong, though she can at least claim to be in confident mood after reaching the semi-finals of the Warsaw Open - the first time a British woman has reached the last four of a clay-court event for 26 years.

"I am looking forward to playing Safina, even though it's probably the toughest draw you could ask for," said Keothavong.

"She's definitely the favourite for the title and she's a player who's done consistently the best this year, especially winning Rome and Madrid. It's definitely a tough draw but I've got nothing to lose.

"I can go out there and take a bit of confidence from my performances this week and give it my best shot. It'll be on one of the big courts and it's my first appearance in the main draw at the French Open so I can just go out there and enjoy it.

British women look forward to French Open

"I don't have too many expectations of myself but I will definitely learn a lot and enjoy it. It's not every week that you get to play the number one player in the world."

Fellow Britons Elena Baltacha and Katie O'Brien fell at the last hurdle in qualifying on Friday, O'Brien going down 6-4 7-6 (8-6) to Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands and Baltacha losing 6-2 6-2 to top seed Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan.

"I've never got final round of qualifying here before, so it's better than I've ever done at the French Open, but obviously it's very frustrating because I was so close to taking it to a third set," said O'Brien.

Murray, 22, will be looking to continue his recent signs of development on the dirt, having reached the semi-finals of Monte Carlo and the quarter-finals in Madrid in recent weeks.

Chela, who has slipped down the rankings in recent years, could still provide an immediate test of the Scot's clay-court credentials, though Murray has won three of his previous four meetings against the 29-year-old Argentine.

I think he's made the second week here quite a few times so I definitely can't afford to look past him

Murray on Chela

Their last match-up was in Madrid - which was then a hard court event - in 2007 with Murray a comfortable 6-1 6-3 victor.

"He's obviously a tough clay-court player," said Murray. "He had a very bad injury last year and he has come back this year and is playing well at the moment.

"I think he's made the second week here quite a few times so I definitely can't afford to look past him."

Murray will face Italy's Potito Starace or German Mischa Zverev if he can overcome Chela.

Meanwhile, Nadal - bidding for a fifth French Open title - opens against an unnamed qualifier, while world numbers two and four Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic - on the other side of the draw - face Spain's Alberto Martin and Ecuador's Nicolas Lapentti respectively.

606: DEBATE
ComonRafa

"I have won in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and been in the final in Madrid," said Nadal, whose 33-match clay-court winning streak was brought to an end by Roger in Spain on Sunday.

"It's almost a perfect clay-court season. I'm happy with the way I've been playing. The conditions here are different to Madrid where the court was fast and the balls were flying."

Federer said: "Perhaps this is the year for me. In 2004 and 2005, I felt I missed a great chance in Paris. And I thought I would never play in a final at Roland Garros.

"But now, with three finals and a semi-final plus my successes over Rafa in Hamburg (in 2007) and Madrid, I know I can beat anyone if I play well."

Djokovic, who turned 22 on Friday, said: "It's a bit of a change - the last three years I've been in a quarter or semi with Rafa, in the same half of the draw. Now I'm with Roger.

"The semi-final against Rafa in Madrid gave me even more self-belief that I might win my next encounter against him."

Rusedski on the 'big four' of men's tennis

In the women's draw, sisters Serena and Venus Williams have been placed into opposite sides of the French Open field, meaning they could only meet each other in the final.

"I feel fine now," said Serena, who was injured in her last event. "I don't have any regrets about playing in Madrid.

"I don't think I am the favourite. It is what it is. Now I feel I want to make all my memories this year.

"I am more confident than I was a couple of weeks ago so that's a step in the right direction."

Russian former world number one Maria Sharapova will play Anastasiya Yakimova of Belarus in her first Grand Slam match since Wimbledon last year, having only just returned to action following 10 months out with a shoulder injury.

Defending champion Ana Ivanovic will start off her defence by facing Sara Errani of Italy, and the Serbian is another on the way back to full fitness.

"I'm fine," she said. "I had a few problems in Rome with my knee. I had some scans and saw the doctors. I feel 100% now. I have an osteopath with me here and we are still working on it. I feel healthy again."



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see also
Men's singles draw
26 Aug 11 |  Tennis
Women's singles draw
28 Jan 10 |  Tennis
Rafa the unstoppable?
21 May 09 |  Tennis
Beating the drum for women's tennis
20 May 09 |  Tennis
French Open photos
21 May 09 |  Tennis
Keothavong reaches landmark semi
21 May 09 |  Tennis
Beaten Sharapova to play in Paris
21 May 09 |  Tennis
Murray can be number one - Nadal
14 May 09 |  Tennis
Murray happy to be number three
11 May 09 |  Tennis
British pair close to qualifying
21 May 09 |  Tennis


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FROM OTHER SPORT SITES
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