Tuesday 16 January 2018

Tennis: Murray taking nothing for granted against 'Federer of the Futures'

Paul Newman

Andy Murray's encyclopaedic knowledge of other players was put to the test with his first-round draw here at the French Open, but even Eric Prodon, who has never been higher than No 113 in the world rankings, was lodged in the 24-year-old Scot's memory banks.

"I actually watched him play when I was a teenager at a Futures event in Craiglockhart, though I've not seen him play much since then," Murray said when asked about the 29-year-old Frenchman. "He has a lot of experience and he plays most of his tennis on clay, so he will be dangerous."

Since making his professional debut 13 years ago, Prodon has played only 10 matches on the main tour, winning just once, against Spain's Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo in the first round of a tournament in Casablanca in 2003.

Nevertheless, that record masks a wealth of experience for a man who has been labelled 'the Roger Federer of the Futures'. Prodon has spent almost his entire career on the Futures and Challenger circuits, beneath the main Association of Tennis Professionals tour. He has played in 38 finals and won 21 titles, the first of his successes having come at the tournament Murray recalled from Edinburgh in 2004.

Prodon was world No 3 in the junior rankings and claimed Federer among his victims en route to a defeat by David Nalbandian in the final of the prestigious Eddie Herr tournament in Florida in 1998. His senior career was hampered by a serious foot injury, as a result of which he now plays almost exclusively on clay.

His three previous appearances at the French Open have been the only occasions when he has played in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament. He lost in the first round to Fernando Meligeni in 2000, to Andre Agassi in 2002 and then to Ivan Ljubicic in 2008.

Gilles Simon, the world No 19, said Prodon was "a very talented player" who can play "amazing shots". Simon added: "When you play someone with a lower ranking than yours, you feel that if you are playing well then you will win. But sometimes against this kind of player they are able to play their shots. They hit one winner and then another winner and you can think: 'what is going on?'

"But Murray has a lot of experience of this kind of match and knows these players can play amazing tennis for one set, a set and a half, but that he can win in the end."

Prodon, a Parisian, is certain to have the home crowd on his side. "I am sure it will be a great atmosphere," Murray said. "I have played Italians in Rome, Americans in America and I don't really mind. I am sure the crowd will shout for him, but I am looking forward to it."

Murray, who will not play Prodon until tomorrow at the earliest, added: "They say it is a good draw, but sometimes I have hard draws and have done very well and at other times I have had what people call easy draws and lost. The draw doesn't really make a huge difference to me." (© Independent News Service)

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