Murray prepares for searching first-round test against home favourite Gasquet

The French Open, which starts here tomorrow, has always provided Andy Murray with his stiffest Grand Slam test and in yesterday's draw the Briton was handed arguably the toughest first-round task of all 32 seeds.

The 23-year-old Scot will play Richard Gasquet, who was regarded until recently as one of the game's outstanding talents but has slipped down the world rankings after a year in which he was dogged by a drugs controversy.

Murray is the world No 4 and Gasquet the No 68, but the Frenchman will have the support of his home crowd and has recently given hope that he might rediscover the form that once took him to No 7 in the world. He has been playing this week in Nice, where he will meet Fernando Verdasco in today's final.

"He's definitely one of the best players that's not seeded," Murray said yesterday. "He's a very, very good player. Obviously he had some problems last year, but he's playing very well again.

"It's going to be a great atmosphere and it's going to be a fun match to play in. For a long time he's been [France's] favourite to win a Grand Slam because he was unbelievably good when he was playing the juniors. Then he obviously had some great wins when he first came on the tour, so it's going to be a very difficult match."

Gasquet, who is 11 months older than Murray, appeared on the cover of a French tennis magazine at the age of nine, made his Grand Slam debut at 15 and enjoyed a stunning victory over Roger Federer at Monte Carlo when he was 18.

However, he has often looked uncomfortable in the spotlight and his record in Grand Slam tournaments is mediocre for a player with such talent. In six visits to Roland Garros he has won only four matches and never gone beyond the third round.

The former French No 1's career took a turn for the worse in March last year, when he failed a drugs test in Miami. He said the cocaine found in his system must have come from kissing a woman he had met the previous evening in a nightclub.

Ten weeks later an independent tribunal decided that he had committed a doping offence but accepted his explanation and ruled that he should be freed to compete again immediately. However, the International Tennis Federation, which had been seeking a mandatory two-year ban, contested the decision. The Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected the appeal five months later.

Gasquet had already slipped to No 25 before the controversy and by the start of this month had fallen to 86. He reached the final of a tour event in Sydney in January but had struggled until winning a Challenger tournament in Bordeaux this month. He has often done well on clay, having reached three clay-court finals, including a Masters Series event in Hamburg. He has already played 19 matches on clay this year compared with Murray's six. Murray, who reached the quarter-finals here last year in his best French Open performance, has met Gasquet three times. He lost the first two matches but won the most recent, when he came back from two sets down at Wimbledon two years ago.

The Frenchman is not the only difficult opponent on Murray's potential path. Juan Ignacio Chela, his possible second-round opponent, is at his best on clay, while Marcos Baghdatis, whom the Scot is seeded to meet in the third round, has beaten him in both their previous meetings. John Isner or Tomas Berdych could await in the fourth round before a quarter-final against the French No 1, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Murray is seeded to meet Roger Federer, the defending champion, in the semis. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are the top seeds in the other half of the draw.

Murray said he had not set himself a particular target: "I'm going to try my best to win the tournament. There was a big surprise last year with [Robin] Soderling reaching the final. There have been a lot of surprise winners at the French Open in the past, so that can happen. But I need to win my first match first if I'm going to have a chance of doing that, and I've got a very, very tough opponent."

Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Sport
Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker during Hansen's final broadcast
Sport
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?