Murray to face 'Federer of the Futures' first up

It is something of a double-edged compliment, but Eric Prodon, Andy Murray's first-round opponent here at the French Open, is known as "the Roger Federer of the Futures". The 29-year-old Frenchman got to his first final in 2001, won his first tournament in 2004 and has enjoyed consistent success ever since, reaching a total of 38 finals and winning 21 titles along the way.

The major dent in the world No 118's reputation, however, is the fact he has spent almost his entire career on the Futures and Challenger circuits, a twilight world populated by up-and-coming talent and those not quite good enough to make it on to the main Association of Tennis Professionals tour.

Places like Monte Carlo and Melbourne have never featured on Prodon's schedule. Instead he has won tournaments at Marrakech, Bucaramanga in Colombia and Brasov in Romania, while the list of players he has beaten in finals – including Farrukh Dustov, Adrian Menendez-Maceiras, Fernando Romboli, Catalin Gard, Axel Michon and Marius Zay – is hardly a who's who of international tennis.

A different future had beckoned for Prodon in 1998, when he played at the Eddie Herr tournament in Florida, which brings together nearly all the world's best juniors. Prodon lost to David Nalbandian in the final, having beaten Roger Federer and Guillermo Coria in earlier rounds. He went on to beat Mikhail Youzhny at the Orange Bowl and Jarkko Nieminen and Tommy Robredo before leaving the junior circuit the following year.

It was hardly for want of trying, but Prodon was unable to match that success as a pro. He has only played 10 matches on the main tour, winning one. He has been awarded three wild cards at Roland Garros, only to lose on each occasion. This time he has done it the hard way, winning three matches in qualifying to reach the main draw.

Having been out for nearly two years after breaking a bone in his foot, Prodon now plays nearly all his matches on clay, which is more forgiving than hard courts. In recent times he has enjoyed more success, having reached a career-high No 113 in the world rankings earlier this month.

Murray, nevertheless, should have little difficulty progressing to the second round, where one of two more qualifiers, Italy's Simone Bolelli (world No 129) or Canada's Frank Dancevic (No 179), await. Thereafter the challenges get tougher, with Murray seeded to meet Milos Raonic, who in the last 12 months has climbed 275 places in the world to No 28, Viktor Troicki and Jürgen Melzer en route to a semi-final clash with Rafael Nadal.

In his four appearances here, Murray has never gone beyond the quarter-finals, but his form in the current clay-court season gives the 24-year-old Scot hope that he can go deep into the tournament.

Despite playing with an elbow injury, Murray became the first player on clay this year to take a set off Nadal in Monte Carlo, while in Rome last weekend he came closer to beating Novak Djokovic than anyone in 2011. The world No 4 served for the match at 5-4 in the deciding set before losing in a tie-break.

The Rome performance gave Murray encouragement. "It was important because I felt like I was starting to play good tennis again," the Scot said here. "I was working things out on the court. I had been behind 6-1 and managed to find my way back. I changed my game a bit. That's important: that you can keep focusing and thinking when you're behind."

While Murray is the only British man in the main singles draw, three women have made it. Elena Baltacha (world No 83) and Anne Keothavong (No 108) are here thanks to their rankings, while Heather Watson (No 119) became the first British woman to come through qualifying for 33 years. All three have winnable first-round ties. Baltacha plays Sloane Stephens of the US, Keothavong meets Russia's Vesna Dolonts and Watson faces Stéphanie Foretz Gacon of France.

Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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.

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before