Life got a little easier for Andy Murray in Monte Carlo on Monday when the 29-year-old Parisian qualifier Edouard Roger-Vasselin tipped Robin Haase out of the Masters.
The Frenchman plays Murray in the second round on Wednesday on the game's little patch of paradise, Court Central of the Monte Carlo country club, and will not lack for local support, including that of his wife's parents, who live in nearby Nice.
Roger-Vasselin, ranked 81 in the world, has a sound pedigree, his father Christophe having beaten Jimmy Connors in the quarter-finals of the French Open 30 years ago, and, as Haase discovered in their first meeting, he has a testing range of shots.
Roger-Vasselin won nine games when Murray beat him in three sets in the second round of the Australian Open last year and takes heart from that performance, although the rankings do not lie.
Working behind a solid first serve and tigerish defence (he saved nine of 10 break points), he broke Haase's heart to win 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and 10 minutes, barely long enough to top up his tan on a glorious afternoon on the Riviera.
Haase, just outside the top 50, has had a mixed year, losing to Murray in the first round in Melbourne, reaching the semi-finals in Zagreb in February and losing to the qualifier Martin Klizan in the first round in Morocco last week. Roger-Vasselin was an above-average qualifier, though, with some encouraging form, having beaten John Isner in February to reach the finals at Delray Beach, where he forced Ernests Gulbis to a tie-break (Isner plays Gulbis on Court des Princes here on Tuesday.
"I was a bit tired," Roger-Vasselin said on Monday, "but it didn't show on the court. There are green lights everywhere. I had a very good beginning of the year – the best in my career. Court nine is fine, but you don't dream as much of that court as you do of Court Central. And against Murray, it's going to be great."
Reminded of playing the Scot in Melbourne, he said: "I have good memories of that match. I was a bit tense at the beginning. Anyway, Wednesday I will be there. If there's an opening I will certainly take it.
"I must try not to let him play his game. What he likes is to do his own mix, drop-shots, higher balls. I need to try to be aggressive and not let him have time to adapt to the surface, since it's his first tournament [this year] on clay, otherwise it's going to become more difficult for me as he will get more familiar with the conditions."
Acknowledging Murray had improved somewhat since they last met, he said: "Of course there's a great gap between the two of us but, in some tournaments, surprises can happen."
Murray needs no reminding of that. Here two years ago he played his worst match in several years, losing in 59 minutes to Philipp Kohlschreiber, who is on the Scot's side of the draw, along with Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard, trying for his ninth title here but seeded three on his way back from injury after seven months out, plays the winner of Tuesday's match between his compatriot Fernando Verdasco and the Australian Marinko Matosevic.
If Novak Djokovic, nursing an ankle injury, does decide on Tuesday he is fit enough to play here, he will meet the Russian Mikhail Youzhny, who eased past Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-4, 6-0 on Monday.
Tuesday promises a showcase of well-meshed styles: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga v Nikolay Davydenko, Gaël Monfils v Albert Montanes, Grigor Dimitrov v Janko Tipsarevic, Juan Martín del Petro v Alexandr Dolgopolov, Jerzy Janowicz v Kevin Anderson and David Goffin v Nicolas Almagro.
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