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."

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015