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Media glare on Murray at Melbourne

Jonathan Overend | 17:58 UK time, Saturday, 17 January 2009

If you ask the British bookies who they make favourite to win the Australian Open the answer would be Andy Murray.

"It's surprising to hear," says an amused Roger Federer, clearly fancying his own chances with his 13 Grand Slam titles.

Which brings us to Murray. Who does he consider favourite?

Andy Murray

"Umm... I think Federer wants to be favourite," he deadpans, "so I'd probably give it to him."

Oh yes. Touché! A little bit of mild-mannered pre-tournament jousting never did anyone any harm and Murray's in a jolly mood in his blue tracksuit as he talks thoughtfully into the Melbourne microphones.

The boy has well and truly arrived when he feels he can crack a gag at Federer's expense and it's a sign of his confidence at the moment. He's no longer the new boy; he's the most talked about player in the run-up to the year's first major.

In Saturday's "Herald Sun" newspaper here in Melbourne, there was a two-page spread on Murray and his back-up team, not in the sports section but the news pages. The international press has picked up on his four successive wins over Federer and see him as the man to beat.

All of which is an obvious irritation to the man from Switzerland who, let's not forget, has won three times in Melbourne and claimed the last major at the US Open four months ago.

Rafael Nadal, the world number one, never seems to start the year particularly well, Murray has never won a major title before and defending champ Novak Djokovic has lost to Ernests Gulbis and Jarkko Niemenen already this year after deciding to change rackets in the off season.

If Federer can survive against Juan Martin Del Potro (potentially the player of the season ahead) in an intriguing possible quarter-final, then he remains my pick for the title.

The American sisters, the evergreen Venus and Serena Williams, are the ones to beat in the women's championship but much of the smart money is heading to Russia for a potential first time major winner - either Elena Dementieva or Dinara Safina.

Venus and Serena Williams

These are the form players at the start of the year and in the race for the Sony Ericsson WTA number one ranking, a game of pass-the-parcel proportions at the moment, the winner of the title this fortnight is likely to become number one for February.

It could be Olympic gold medallist Dementieva, a fixture on the WTA scene for seven years but who only recently has found the belief required to triumph at the top level. Having found that belief, highlighting her success in Beijing as a turning point, and having found out how to serve after all these years, she's the complete package.

Her serve used to be part comic, part tragic - 65mph at times with a ball toss which sometimes would be nearer horizontal than vertical when under pressure.

But at Roland Garros last year I remember watching her hit three aces and a service winner in one game against Vera Zvonereva. That was her eureka moment and I take her to triumph and take top spot in the women's game.

How nice to sit in the sun on Saturday and watch two British players qualify for the main draw of the women's singles. Hard fought victories for Elena Baltacha and Katie O'Brien mean there will be four British women in the main draw of an overseas major for the first time since 1992 US Open. And not a wild card in sight.

Five years ago British women's tennis was in a terrible mess. When the head of the department at the LTA retired he wasn't properly replaced. Coaches came and went, sports science was practically non existent and there was little sound advice on scheduling matters.

Now under the leadership of Carl Maes and the experienced coaching of Nigel Sears, the players are getting results. None of them are massive world beaters but they're all starting to make the most of their ability while understanding their limitations.

Anne Keothavong could be a top 50 player by the end of this tournament and Mel South should make the top 100. O'Brien will be close to her career high ranking while Baltacha, so troubled in her eight-year career with illness and injury, could still have her best days ahead of her.

Out on court 13, Baltacha was serving fiercely and striking her forehand imperiously as she beat the top seed Jelena Kostanic Tosic. She let out a huge scream after converting her match point and hugged her boyfriend by the umpire's chair.

Then O'Brien beat Betina Jozami, also in straight sets, and was so chuffed afterwards she couldn't stop smiling and giggling. It's the first time she's qualified for an overseas major.

From that nadir of a few years ago this is considerable progress. It's so important for the group of talented British juniors including Laura Robson that a benchmark is set by the more senior players and that potential is maximised. It's all you can ask.


  • Comment number 1.

    Unfortunately, Federer seems to be feeling the emotions of those on the slide...frustration that he cannot quite do everything he used to, and a touch of bewilderment at others being considered favourite above or equal to himself.

    What he has is still good enough to win the tournament of course. But given Murray's outstanding recent form it's quite right to see some value his chances at the Open so highly. I think if he doesn't get to the semis at least he'll be very disappointed.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    I like Murray's confidence, it bodes well. He has the attitude and knowledge that he won't leave anything in the locker room. Whether that will be good enough is another story but it is also irrelevant. One thing for sure, if federer gets past djokovic and murray makes it to the final, he will enjoy beating federer just that little bit more now...

  • Comment number 4.

    Why would you only ask the English bookies, Jonathan? Aren't the bookies in the rest of the UK worth asking? Or when you said English, did you mean British?

  • Comment number 5.

    Federer's only saying he wants to be favourite to keep in the limelight co's he's 1 player I could'nt consider;maybe Murray,Nadal,Djokovic or where my money's going-on Andy Roddick

  • Comment number 6.

    i am not sure andy should be favorite because he has never won a major, the same way liverpool are anything but favorite to win the premiership. they just dont know what it takes to win one and i think andy is in the same boat.

    dont get me wrong, he has amazing talent and will no doupt win a major, i just think he needs a few more semi's and finals before he is truly ready.

    nothing, however, would make me happier than andy winning the australian open.

    well, maybe winning the euro-millions!

  • Comment number 7.

    Did anyone actually see and hear Federer's comments? I think Mr Overend is misrepresenting RF's comments by taking them out of context for the sake of a story.
    The Federer I witnessed didn't seem to be in the least perturbed or bothered by Murray being made favourite. In fact, to the contrary, when he commented he was clearly responding to a question and I got the impression he found it quite amusing. When asked what he thought about Murray being favourite, he said "Good for him". He also said it probably wouldn't help him (Murray) very much and alluded to the time he (Federer) was favourite and got beaten in one of the early rounds. It was, overall, a good natured response. The overall gist of what he said was that it didn't matter what the bookmakers thought. It won't have any bearing on the outcome.
    Anyway, in time honoured hack manner, let's not allow the facts to spoil a good story.

  • Comment number 8.

    Midgiedog, get over yourself. Are you so nationalistic and self involved that the only part of the article you feel is worth commenting on is where the reporter mentions 'English' and not 'British' Does anybody really care? Or should I say does anybody important care?
    Either way, Murrays form has been incredible in the last 6 months and he has repeatedly beaten the top ranked players. More than deserved of his favourite status.

  • Comment number 9.

    4. It says British you fool.

  • Comment number 10.

    steviehullyyy -

    Since Midgiedog wrote his post it's been changed from "English" to "British" fool.

  • Comment number 11.

    Agree pretty much with all of that, especially the womens analysis. Though the fate of the mens singles will entirely depend on fitness due to the extreme heat and unforgiving courts - the fittest player of the top four will win the title, I think it might just be Nadal actually.

  • Comment number 12.

    Ok, so we know how the bookies' system works.

    As of tomorrow, his odds for Wimbledon will be getting continually shortened as we struggle to comprehend what is unfolding before our eyes.

    NOW is the time to put your money where your mouth is.

    I want 2.5% though. Things are tight.

  • Comment number 13.

    I think for someone to focus on the "English/Scottish/British" thing is pathetic when trhe debate is about the AO and Andy Murrays chances. My personal view is that making him favourite is a ploy by the bookies to attract more betting on him in the hope of a bigger pay day.
    Logic should dictate that there are 5 or 6 players in the mix, and Andy is one of them, but with the world No 1,2 and 3 playing and considering their exceptional records we can only hope that they all play well and give us a great tourney. I will be over the moon if Andy wins but not heatrbroken if he does not. Winning slams is a learning curve,Andy is learning fast but might need another couple under his belt before he is ready to step up and win one

  • Comment number 14.

    I don't think anyone particularly wants to bring up the Scottish / English / British thing but as one of the small nations of the UK it's important that the Scots et al do point out inconsistencies to protect their identity. If they don't, then these mistakes would be given authority by the silence that follows them. More worrying is that the oversight is committed by a BBC journalist. He should know better. He should also have the courage to put his hand up and whisper 'mea culpa'.

  • Comment number 15.

    Favourites to win(in my opinion)
    1 Federer
    2 Nalbandian
    3 Nadal
    4 Djokovic
    5 Roddick
    Del Potro is the man to watch.
    If Murray reaches quarter finals it will be great!

  • Comment number 16.

    Lets just enjoy this Gran Slam. We are in every tornament from Murray is the mens to Laura Robson in the girls. 11 or 12 people in this Gran Slam all over the board. That includes mens and female singles and mens and womens doubles, and mix doubles to bys and girls in the lower section. I hope we have lots of British success. I support all of them and so should everyone else. We should be proud of this team GB represented in a lot of catergries. When was the last time we said that outside of SW19. I think if Murray gets through this first round I think he will atleast get to week 2 I think it sould be at least quarters if not semis at least if he gets through the first round. Every one is on a level playing field on round one as Murray found out last year. Look Luck all of team GB there. Make us proud beause we are proud of you. Good luck team GB.

  • Comment number 17.

    Re Mandryang's comment about his favourites to win the Aussie Open.

    There's a well known phrase that compares opinions with bumholes...... and not often has it been more appropriate.

    Not only can you fail to bring yourself to admit that Murray is one of the favourites for the title (despite being the form player on tour) but you place him behind the likes of Andy Roddick. Roddick is Murray's bunny. And as for fat David Nalbandian...not a chance.

    What a clown you are.

    Murray may not win the tournament. He could easily have an off day or run into someone who plays out of their skin, but based on current form the hype is not undeserved.

  • Comment number 18.

    I hope it doesn't sound to too facetious and girly to say that Murray is looking in FABULOUS shape! I remember a blogger from last year's Wimbers saying that his flexed muscles pose at the end of a match looked like a peanut on a piece of spaghetti. Not so any more. But how do people think he will cope in potential temps of 40 degrees?

  • Comment number 19.

    I believe that Federer personally wants to win at least one French Open before he retires and has an eye on at least equalling the Wimbledon and US Open men's singles slam record of 7 each ( he is 5 each to date ). This would give him a total of 18 grand slams. If he wins the 2009 Australian Open that would then be 19. He may then ( pending on fitness levels, personal desire, and avoidance of illness / injury ) target the outright Wimbledon and US Open records of 8 each - what a momentuous achievement that would be! That would then be 21 slams in total. Personally, I think he will get a minimum of 16 before he retires and have always felt he will end up with 17. However!! To be effectively then unarguably called the greatest male tennis player of all time with say 17 slams, he really needs to win the French to silence the doubters.

  • Comment number 20.

    I, like many others, will be absolutely ecstatic to see Andy Murray lift the Austrailan Open trophy. However at the same time, I wont be devastated if he doesn't.

    We, as a nation/isle, run the risk of doing what we do everytime, in every sport thought. Its my biggest fear. OVER EXPECTATION. All this leads to an incredible amount of weight on our sportsmen/women shoulders. And its proven.

    I just hope everyone remembers that Murray is still a young lad and has time on his side. No doubt he'll win something someday, just let's not jump on his case if he loses a couple of tournaments/matches in his early career.

  • Comment number 21.

    pvandck- Watch that interview again without closing your eyes this time.

  • Comment number 22.


    You stated during the American Open, in a radio 5 live broadcast, that you never enjoy Murray matches when he was struggling against Melzer in an early round.

    You let your, all too obvious, anti-Murray feelings come to the fore on that occasion.

    Have you seen the light yet and will you support Scotland's No1?

  • Comment number 23.

    If ever Murray were ready to win a slam, it is now. British media and the bookies may be overly possessive of him but there is no doubt about about his credentials.
    At this stage, at worst you could say Murray has the same pretensions to the title as the other top three. If he reaches the final against RF or Nadal, my money will be squarely on Murray. If against Djokovic, I'll back Djokovic. Till then I suspect all four are vulnerable to an upset along the route. Because of conditions Australian open is much more liable to spring up a dark horse than the other thee slams.

  • Comment number 24.

    all the hype will disappear when he is humbled --and then throws his usual foul mouthed tantrum. wonder why he wasnt on Sports personality of the year--yes you got it PERSONALITY

  • Comment number 25.

    who cares if they call him a scot or brit.did Nadal moan about not being called a cattelan rather than a spaniard;as long as we see a couple of half-decent games I'll not be complaining

  • Comment number 26.

    I have an ante post 25/1 on Dementieva - taken in November, ridiculous odds for the Olympic champion .. so I am pleased you echo my thoughts. Really hope Elena Baltacha can win at least her 1st round - if anyone deserves some success after what she has been through - her smile is worth a Million Dollars ( Aus ! )

  • Comment number 27.

    Joozy 1 calls me a clown.
    It's not my fault if you are a Murray fan and beelive that Murray can win the Australian open.
    And what you think about Del Potro or Tsonga?
    But I understand the frustration of the british media.It´s a long time ago since a briton has won a grand slam.
    To long ago.

  • Comment number 28.

    Joozy 1 calls me a clown.
    It's not my fault if you are a Murray fan and beelive that Murray can win the Australian open.
    And what you think about Del Potro or Tsonga?
    But I understand the frustration of the british media.It´s a long time ago since a briton has won a grand slam.
    Too long ago.

  • Comment number 29.

    The value of hindsight.... Most of the posts look foolish now.

    Try looking at the facts. Nadal is a year older, slower, the knees weaker. Well done Fernando Verdasco, congratulations where they are due. BUT Nadal has not been convincing at the AO, especially this year or ever on HC. 4 weeks ago most people would be saying Fernando who? OK maybe he is a breaker, but a world number one on form would have dispatched him easily. So it looks like Nadal is on the slide. Maybe he had glandular fever.

    Who had the hardest draw, who made it look easy? Federer. He is fit and mechanically sound. Did you see AROD dripping all over the court? Should have put up "Danger wet surface" signs. I hope the temperature soars, so you can see how Nadal's hair is thinning. Not even 25 and over the hill....... He should hurry up between points, before he gets too old to carry on. Oh, and while I am being disagreable, how about paying the women more than the men? Verdasco = 5 + hours for one match, losing ladies semi finalist less than 5 hours for the whole tournament. Yeah, right.

  • Comment number 30.

    Another moderately amusing, less-than-an-hour session of baseline ping-pong in the women's final, with its entirely predictable result, followed by another five sets epic from Nadal and Federer, which kept a vast audience, world-wide, on the edge of their seats.

    We are required to accept that it's "equal". We aren't required to believe it.

    And we don't.


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