GREG Rusedski expects Andy Murray to play in the French Open.
The world No 2 gave a pessimistic assessment of his back problem after pulling out of the Masters event in Rome on Wednesday, stating he would be “very surprised” if he made it to the Paris tournament which starts in nine days.
Murray struggled with the injury during the clay-court season last year and revealed he has experienced pain on and off for the past 18 months.
The Scot will have a scan today before sitting down with his team to decide whether or not to play at Roland Garros.
With Wimbledon coming only two weeks after the French Open and the US Open later in the summer, where he will defend his first grand slam title, Murray is keen to make sure he does not compromise his chances at either of those tournaments.
Rusedski, though, thinks the 26-year-old will be extremely reluctant to miss such an important event. The former British No 1, who will be a pundit for British Eurosport during the French Open, said: “It’s a concern but most players have various injuries and niggles during their careers.
“Once he gets the results of the scan then we’ll know more but if there’s a chance he can play I think he’ll go for it. If he wants to be world No 1, which I’m sure is one of his goals, then it’s a massive tournament.
“Of course he’s got to think about his future and if it’s something that could affect the rest of his career. He’s also got a tremendous amount of points to defend later in the summer but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that he’ll play.”
If fit, Murray will go into Wimbledon as one of the big favourites having reached his first final last year, where he led Roger Federer by a set before losing in four. The Scot’s mother, Judy, indicated that will be at the front of his mind when he makes the decision whether or not to go to Paris.
“Obviously the goal is to be in peak condition for Wimbledon,” Judy Murray told BBC Sport. “The scan will let him see what the injury is and what needs to be done. He needs to be cautious and I’m sure Wimbledon will be his priority.”
Meanwhile six-time champion Rafael Nadal overcame one of the worst opening sets of his career to edge Latvian qualifier Ernests Gulbis 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 and reach the Italian Open quarter-finals yesterday.
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams each posted straightforward wins. Djokovic beat Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-1, 6-4 to improve his clay-court record this season to 8-1 and Williams routed 14th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova 6-0, 6-1 for her 21st consecutive win, matching the best streak of her career.
Nadal, however, was far from his best, especially in the first set, in which Gulbis jumped out to a 5-0 lead and even had a point to close out the set at love.
But Nadal, who has reached the final in all seven tournaments he has played since returning to the circuit in February from a seven-month break due to a left knee injury, eventually began to win the longer points while the carefree Gulbis started to commit more errors.
Still, the performance raises questions about whether the Spaniard will be able to defend his title at the French Open.
Nadal will next face fourth-seeded David Ferrer, who advanced when Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany withdrew due to dizziness.
The only danger Djokovic faced came while serving at 3-2 in the second set. He saved two break points – one with a big serve down the middle and the other with some crisp shot-making that forced Dolgopolov to net a backhand. Djokovic now faces sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych, who defeated Kevin Anderson of South Africa 7-5, 6-2. With local hope Sara Errani of Italy playing in the main stadium, Williams was forced to play on an outer court. She didn’t make the appearance last too long, winning in 61 minutes.
Two-time champion Jelena Jankovic edged fifth-seeded Li Na of China, 7-6, 7-5 and will meet Romanian qualifier Simona Halep, who beat 13th-seeded Roberta Vinci of Italy 6-4, 6-2.
The last remaining Italian in the tournament is Errani, who advanced when 12th-seeded Maria Kirilenko of Russia retired while trailing 6-3, 2-0 with a knee injury.