Murray to face gentleman foe
HAVING beaten a brash racket-throwing American in his first match, Andy Murray tomorrow faces a softly-spoken Parisian whose fellow countrymen regard him as an English gentleman. Edouard Roger-Vasselin's father, Christophe, a former player, had an English mother and French father. Born in London, he spent his first 15 years in Putney before moving to France.
"I love England," Roger-Vasselin Jnr said yesterday. "When I was a kid I often went to London for the weekend. I always love going back to England for the grass season. When I was a kid I always spoke in English when I was with my grandmother. A lot of French players have said to me: 'Why don't you play Davis Cup for Britain?' But the British have never spoken to me. When I thought about it I knew it wouldn't be right. I'm a Frenchman."
Do his English connections inspire a taste for warm beer? "Not particularly, but I like a lot of stuff in England," he said. "At Christmas my father always brings bread sauce. It's not that good, but he brings it every time."
Roger-Vasselin Snr reached the French Open semi-finals in 1983 by beating Jimmy Connors. A bright future was predicted for his son after he reached the third round at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2007, but he has never risen above No 82 in the world rankings and is currently at No 101. His victory yesterday over Xavier Malisse, who retired with an arm injury after the first set, was his first here.
Although skilful with a solid all-court game, Roger-Vasselin lacks the big shots to trouble the best consistently. It is said that he is too nice to be a winner. "I don't know what it means to be too nice," the 28-year-old Frenchman said. "I've maybe started to be more aggressive in my behaviour on the court. It's good to be nice off the court, but I know that on the court I have to be like a dog. On the court you have to be nastier. Perhaps with me my 'English attitude' as a 'gentleman' comes through."
Since Murray lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first round here in 2008, the Scot has won 36 out of 37 matches against French players. He likes playing them because most are flair players. "I don't give them that many mistakes and play solid all of the time," Murray said. "I think that's why my game has matched up pretty well."
Murray admitted that his French speaking had not improved over the years, but added: "I've been trying to learn Spanish. I got the Rosetta Stone stuff in December and I was doing it religiously for five or six days.
"Then it went pear-shaped because I was always doing it in the evening when my girlfriend was sleeping and I would be on the computer speaking Spanish to the computer.
"She got fed up with it so I'm blaming her, because after four or five days of it, she was saying: 'Just turn the bloody thing off.' I haven't done it since."