After two epic contests in 2016, Murray and Del Potro will both head into Saturday’s match with uncertainly surrounding their form and fitness.
The 30-year-old Scot has struggled with injury and illness this year and, although now suffering only with a mild cough, his relative lack of matches has left him searching for consistency.
He was heard complaining about his own movement as he fought his way past Martin Klizan on Thursday, but drew encouragement from the performance.
Two four-set matches this week have at least seen him run 5,248m over the course of six hours.
“Physically I pulled up well and felt good, so I will gain a lot of confidence from that,” he said after his second-round match.
“And also, I hit a lot of balls out there today.”
Del Potro, 28, skipped the Australian Open at the start of the year to protect a fragile body that has seen the latter years of his career repeatedly interrupted by injuries.
As a result, he is ranked 30th and so meets the top players earlier in tournaments – he has already lost three times to Novak Djokovic and once to Roger Federer in 2017.
He made it through the second round in Paris when opponent Nicolas Almagro retired with an injury, but the Argentine was himself dealing with a groin problem, later saying: “I felt some pain. I didn’t move well.”
Looking ahead to Saturday, the 2009 US Open champion added: “Andy is one of the favourites to win this tournament.
“And now I know his game a lot, but I need to be in good shape and physically be stronger to hold a long match if we play a long match, long rallies.”
Positivity key for Murray success
Murray lost his composure at times during his second-round match and repeatedly looked to those in his player box for more obvious support.
Coaches Ivan Lendl and Jamie Delgado, along with Davis Cup captain Leon Smith and members of Murray’s support team and family, will again be in the box on Saturday.
“I think a lot of the time when I’m playing and especially when I’m frustrated or down, I don’t always project a lot of positivity on the court,” said Murray.
“Sometimes I think also for my team it’s difficult to know exactly how I’m feeling or what it is that I need when I’m on the court.
“So I think my job is really to try to be more positive while I’m out there.”
Anderson serve to test Edmund
Edmund might hold the edge in terms of ranking over Anderson at 47 in the world to 56, but the South African has far more experience.
Nine years older, at 31, the 6ft 8in Anderson will play in the third round of a Grand Slam for the 17th time.
He also has a huge weapon in his serve, hitting 34 aces to Edmund’s four across the first two rounds.
“He’s obviously got a big game, big guy,” said Edmund.
“In hot conditions the ball is really pinging around, so Saturday I’ve just got to be on it. One match at a time.
“He’s got a great serve and good groundstrokes. He was out a bit with injury, but before that he was consistent at the top of the game and getting good results.”
The presence of new coach Andre Agassi has yet to inspire the 12-time Grand Slam champion to rediscover the form that made him a seemingly untouchable world number one this time last year.
An erratic performance saw Djokovic hit 21 errors in relinquishing a 4-1 lead in the first set.
A late break in the second appeared to have settled the world number two, but Schwartzman – playing his first ever third-round match at a Grand Slam – was his equal throughout the third.
The 5ft 7in Argentine then broke serve for a 5-3 lead and remarkably recovered from 0-40 to serve out the set.
With the crowd now excited by the prospect of an upset, Djokovic finally took a firm grip on the match by quickening the pace and shortening the rallies.
It was not plain sailing, however, and despite racing into a 4-0 lead in the fourth set, Djokovic became embroiled in a row with umpire Ramos after receiving two warnings in a game – one of slow play, the second for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Clearly annoyed, the champion retained his focus on the job in hand and reeled off 12 of the last 14 games as dark clouds above threatened to delay his progress.
Tennis great Margaret Court believes there is a “conspiracy” from the “US gay lobby” to strip her name from one of the Australian Open stadiums.
The 74-year-old has been criticised for her beliefs on same-sex marriage, with 18-time Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova calling for the Margaret Court Arena to be renamed.
“They have a lot of money behind them,” Court told 3AW radio.
Court won 24 Grand Slam titles, 11 in the Open era, which began in 1968.
Regarding calls for the stadium in her honour to be renamed, she said: “I think I’ve won more Grand Slams than any man or woman and if it is [renamed], I don’t believe I deserve it.
“They could probably get 100,000 petitions in 24 hours because that’s how they work. There’s a lot of money behind it, and it’s coming from America.”
And asked about a possible conspiracy, she added: “Yes, I believe there is… I think the [gay] lobby, yeah.”
Tennis Australia and the operator of the Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne and Olympic Parks, have distanced themselves from Court’s views on gay marriage. There are currently no plans to rename the venue.
The recent furore started following Court’s open letter to The West Australian, when she declared she would not fly on Qantas “where possible” in protest at its support of same-sex marriage. She then told a Christian radio station “tennis is full of lesbians”.
Navratilova responded: “It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe.
“Her vitriol is not just an opinion. She is actively trying to keep LGBT people from getting equal rights (note to Court: we are human beings, too).”
In 1970, during Apartheid in South Africa, Court said: “South Africa has the racial situation rather better organised than anyone else, certainly much better than the United States.”
Court denied allegations of racism, stating that she had played tennis with compatriot and seven-time Grand Slam singles champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley in South Africa.
“Evonne and I went in there and played for the black people,” she is quoted as saying in The West Australian. “I have 35 cultures in my church and I love them all. I think it’s very sad and sick it’s being brought up now.”
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Dates: 28 May- 11 June
Coverage: Listen to live radio commentary and follow text coverage of selected matches on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and online.
Andre Agassi has attracted as many camera lenses as Novak Djokovic in the opening days of this year’s French Open, but the question remains whether this is a fleeting glimpse or the long-term return of one of the game’s greats.
The 47-year-old Las Vegan began working with Djokovic via phone calls to Madrid and Rome last month, and took up coaching duties in person last week in Paris.
There is no clear idea yet of how long the relationship will last.
“That’s a question for him, to be honest,” was all Djokovic would say on the subject before the tournament.
What we do know is that Agassi is scheduled to leave Paris at the end of the first week to carry out prior engagements, and there is no clue yet as to when, or if, he will be back in Team Djokovic.
“I will be very surprised if this relationship is going over the US Open,” said Fabrice Santoro, a former rival of Agassi now commentating at Roland Garros.
“I think it’s going to be a very short relation between Andre and Novak,” the Frenchman told BBC Radio 5 live.
“Andre Agassi knows the game very well, he loves the game, he likes Novak, but it’s not his life at the moment.
“He has his own life at home with his foundation, with his family, and I’m not sure he’s happy to spend much time in the locker room.”
It was in Paris 12 months ago that Djokovic finally cemented his place among the very best by completing the career Grand Slam, and holding all four major titles at once – something that has eluded Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
But with 12 Grand Slam titles to his name and seemingly set to dominate for the foreseeable future, the Serb’s form deserted him.
“I think Novak needs to be back as a warrior, like he was a few months ago,” said Santoro.
“It’s not like 10 years ago – when he won the French Open last year he was not giving one free point to the opponent, he was sliding all over Paris to win a point. You could see in his eyes how big his ambition was. He’s lost that.”
“Private issues” contributed to Djokovic’s early exit at Wimbledon, he later revealed, while a wrist injury curbed hopes of a quick return to form.
But by his own remarkable standards, the fact that he has since lost his grip on three of those Slams and seen the number one ranking go to Andy Murray is little short of a disaster.
“Shock therapy” was what he felt necessary, and it came with the surprise announcement late last year that he was parting ways not only with ‘super coach’ Boris Becker after three years, but his entire team, including long-time coach and confidante Marian Vajda.
“All these beautiful memories we shared with each other on and off the court cannot be forgotten just like that,” said Djokovic. “We are still very close.”
‘Novak needs to replace Vajda’
Djokovic won six Grand Slam titles over three years with Becker, and all 12 since starting work with Vajda in 2006.
The Serb’s employment of Becker in 2013 was seen by many as a response to the success Andy Murray had after taking on another legend of the past in Ivan Lendl.
But even in his current, second coaching spell, Lendl is likely to spend up to 18 weeks of the year working with Murray, with Jamie Delgado alongside the Scot throughout the season.
“I think Andre Agassi’s help could be enough if Marian Vajda was still there, but he’s not,” Santoro said of the fledgling Djokovic arrangement.
“So Novak needs someone to replace Vajda first, and then find a super coach like Andre.
“I know that if Andy Murray was travelling only a few weeks a year with Ivan Lendl, but without Jamie Delgado, he would be in trouble. This is the situation now with Novak.”
Murray himself was a huge Agassi fan growing up and once discussed working with the American, but it never came to a formal offer.
“He was always really, really nice to me, which is great,” said Murray.
“I’m sure he’ll help Novak as well. I’m not sure exactly what their deal is or the situation is, but having someone with that much experience around can only help.”
Djokovic is currently just working with his brother, Marko, a former professional but with no coaching credentials, and Pepe Imaz, a former world number 146 who now runs a tennis academy that preaches a philosophy of love, peace and meditation.
“I’m not convinced that this person helps Novak Djokovic a lot,” said Santoro. “Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m right. On court, for sure not.”
For all the scrutiny that his relationship with Imaz has come under, the lack of a settled fitness trainer and physio is incongruous for a player who wrote a book on the value of physical and mental well-being.
“I have certain people and methods that I have been trying out lately,” said Djokovic on Monday. “I am working on something, for sure, but still not ready to be shared.”
‘Agassi’s personality fits with Djokovic’s’
So what can Agassi bring that will rejuvenate and enhance the Djokovic game?
Djokovic turned 30 a few weeks ago, and Agassi won two of his eight Grand Slam titles in his 30s.
He also returned from the depths of 141 in the world in 1997 to regain the number one spot and complete the career Grand Slam in 1999 – a mountainous challenge compared to Djokovic’s relatively minor slide.
Technical changes are rarely the major issue when elite players call upon greats of the past, and Djokovic is sure to look more for emotional support from Agassi, with neither man averse to a bout of introspection.
“On the first day we had two practice sessions, and then we had a very, very long conversation in the evening,” the Serb said of their first day together in Paris.
Becker, the man who used to provide that support, gave Agassi a very public welcome to the role in the stands of Philippe Chatrier Court during Djokovic’s opening match at the French Open.
“I think it’s an excellent choice,” Becker told the BBC. “Andre’s personality fits with Novak’s.
“Ideally you don’t want to start a new relationship at a Grand Slam because you have to get to know each other but that was their decision, so I wish them luck.
“Ideally you have to spend a lot of time together – even in smaller tournaments to really get to know each other and trust each other – but it is what it is and hopefully successful.”
Nadal, who is 31 on Saturday, won his first Roland Garros crown in 2005, the first of four successive victories before claiming a further five in a row between 2010 and 2014.
The Spaniard is only one of two players – the other being German Alexander Zverev – to win multiple clay-court titles this season. He won his 10th titles at Monte Carlo and Barcelona as well as his 30th Masters title in Madrid.
“It is the biggest challenge in the game to beat Nadal over five sets on clay in Paris,” Henman told BBC Sport.
The only other player to win 10 or more titles at a single Grand Slam is Margaret Court, who won 11 Australian Opens between 1960 and 1973.
“It would be one of the biggest achievements in tennis and one of the biggest in any sport,” added Henman.
“To have been so dominant at one of the biggest events in our sport is just incredible.”
Nadal has only lost two matches at the French Open, to Robin Soderling in 2009 and Novak Djokovic in 2015
A defeat by Dominic Thiem at the Rome Masters is Nadal’s only loss on clay this season
No concerns over Murray’s form
After a season hampered by injuries and illness, world number one Andy Murray beat Russian Andrey Kuznetsov in the first round on Tuesday and Henman believes the Scot will be looking to “build round by round”.
“I wouldn’t say Murray is favourite but he is the number one in the world for a reason,” Henman said.
“I haven’t been concerned by his form because he has been ill and injured.
“If he can stay healthy and injury free, he will start winning matches and tournaments because he is one of the best players out there.”
The Scot won his opener in four sets to set up a second-round match with Slovak Martin Klizan. He now faces a potential third-round clash with Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro.
“Klizan is an awkward player but I expect Andy to come through that and Del Potro in the third round is a much bigger challenge.
“Irrespective of what happens in Paris, on the grass, with his record at Queen’s and Wimbledon, he will definitely be one of the favourites for those titles.”
Agassi can help Djokovic
Former world number four Henman believes Andre Agassi will have “lots to offer” Novak Djokovic, after the American took over as the Serb’s coach for the first week in Paris.