Britain facing 19-year low at French Open

 

Paris

Britain will be without a player in the men's singles at the French Open for the first time for 19 years if Andy Murray fails to make it to the start line next week. The 26-year-old Scot will decide today whether to risk his troublesome back after retiring in mid-match from last week's Rome Masters.

The only British-registered player in the men's qualifying tournament in Paris, Brydan Klein, was beaten 7-6, 6-3 by France's Mathias Bourgue in the first round. Klein, who had previously represented Australia, where he was born, recently changed his allegiance. His mother is from Manchester.

James Ward, who has been given a wild card into the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club next month, was ranked too low to enter qualifying at the cut-off date in April, though he would have made it a week later, having climbed to No 210 in the world after reaching the final of a Challenger in China.

The last time Britain did not have a player in the men's singles in Paris was in 1994. Greg Rusedski played that year but was registered as a Canadian at the time.

Murray had another scan on his back and will seek specialist advice today before making his decision. If there is a significant risk of aggravating the injury by playing at the French Open, which begins on Sunday, he is likely to save himself for the grass-court season. Wimbledon starts in less than five weeks' time.

Britain will have at least three players in the main women's draw at Roland Garros: Laura Robson, Heather Watson, who will be making her first appearance for two months following glandular fever, and Elena Baltacha, who gets in with a "protected ranking" following her lengthy absence after ankle surgery.

Three more British women begin their attempt to qualify today. Johanna Konta faces China's Saisai Zheng, Anne Keothavong meets the Czech Eva Birnerova and Tara Moore plays Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria.

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