PARIS (Reuters) - Shorn of confidence and recovering from illness and injury, Andy Murray will hope he can avoid becoming part of an historic French Open double act when he faces in-form Russian Andrey Kuznetsov on Tuesday.
After making the Roland Garros final for the first time in 2016, the world number one’s love affair with clay has turned sour this year, with recent losses to Borna Coric in Madrid and Fabio Fognini in Rome as he struggled to put a bout of shingles, and an elbow injury, behind him.
Memories are still fresh of Sunday’s defeat in Paris of Murray’s rankings counterpart Angelique Kerber - the first opening-round loss at Roland Garros by a women’s world number one since the sport turned professional in 1968.
The fact she lost to another Russian, Ekaterina Makarova, may give Kuznetsov a boost when he and the Scot contest the second match on the main Phillipe Chatrier showcourt.
Murray will be bolstered by the presence in his box of Ivan Lendl, his coach in grand slams since 2012 and credited with adding an extra edge of aggression to the Scot’s game.
Murray has also won both his matches against Kuznetsov - but the Russian will certainly be no pushover.
Ranked 73, Kuznetsov reached the semi final of last week’s Geneva open, beating Albert Ramos-Vinolas - himself a winner over Murray in April in Monte Carlo - before going down in two close sets to eventual winner Stan Wawrinka.
reporting by John Stonestreet; editing by Ossian Shine