US Open: Andy Murray opens his title defence against Michael Llodra
By Razwan Mirza - Tweet me: @RazMirza. Last Updated: 29/08/13 9:22am
Andy Murray begins the defence of a major for the first time tonight when he takes on flamboyant French veteran Michael Llodra in the first-round of the US Open.
The 26-year-old should be brimming with confidence and self-belief after adding the Wimbledon title to his success at Flushing Meadows last year.
However, the No 3 seed comes into the tournament having suffered third round defeats at both Toronto and Cincinnati in recent times.
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And he faces a difficult task of retaining his title in New York, having been handed a tough draw.
Murray, though, has no fears, and is expected to reach the quarter-finals, where fifth seed Tomas Berdych is scheduled to be his opponent, and then a possible replay of last year's final against Novak Djokovic in the last four.
He opens his campaign against the unpredictable Llodra in the first match of the Wednesday night session on Arthur Ashe and the British No 1 will be confident of progressing through.
Murray has won all their previous three matches, which have all been played on hard court, with the 33-year-old Frenchman winning only one set.
Their last meeting came at last year's Australian Open, although they have met in a second round clash at Flushing Meadows in 2008. Their only other previous meeting came a year earlier in Metz.
"Llodra is a tricky player. He serves well, he's one of the best doubles player in the world just now, has very good hands, and he's very unpredictable."
Andy Murray on Michael Llodra
Llodra is that rare beast, a serve-volleyer, and that presents its own challenges, especially in the first match of a major tournament.
"It's a tough match," admitted Murray. "Llodra is a tricky player. He serves well, he's one of the best doubles player in the world just now, has very good hands, and he's very unpredictable.
"You need to be switched on all the time against him and play a solid match.
"You can't have too many ups and downs against him because he will capitalise on that."
In the most raucous and intimidating venues of the four grand slams, the left-handed Llodra will look to trouble Murray with an array of dinks, slices and sly changes of pace.
The 49th-ranked Parisian, who has 25 doubles titles to his name, reached the final in Bordeaux in May before losing to compatriot Gael Monfils.
A niggling hamstring injury put pay to his hopes of making it further than the second-round at Wimbledon, but he has since been back in doubles action on the hardcourts in Washington.
Llodra should play to Murray's strengths, and if the Scotsman comes through he will take on the winner of the match between Romania's Victor Hanescu and Leonardo Mayer from Argentina in round two.