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Murray mystified by favourites flap

sports Updated: Jan 23, 2009 08:51 IST

AFP
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Britain's Andy Murray said he was at a loss to understand why Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were put out by his status as Australian Open favourite.

The fourth seed said Federer and Djokovic had shown "quite big contradictions" in questioning his chances of claiming a first Grand Slam here.

"They say there's a lot of pressure on them, but then people aren't saying they're the favourites and they want to be the favourites," he said.

"Therefore, by saying they're the favourites, they're putting more pressure back on themselves.

"I don't really understand the whole thing. I mean, I think I played well enough in the last six or seven months to be in that sort of group. Whether I'm the favourite or not, I don't know."

With Britain without a Grand Slam winner for some 73 years, Federer reacted with barely concealed disdain when told Murray was the bookies' tip.

"Murray's the favourite? Good for him, but it doesn't help him a lot," snorted the Swiss.

Djokovic, the defending champion, also appeared irritated when pressed on whether Murray deserved to ranked alongside the top three.

"What's his ranking and my ranking?" he challenged.

But Murray has been the form player of recent months and he underlined his credentials with a one-sided romp against Marcel Granollers to reach the third round.

He displayed equal calm in swatting aside the negative comments, explaining that he deserved to be mentioned as a potential winner.

"Like I said at the start of the tournament, Federer and (Rafael) Nadal have got the most experience and probably merit being favourites," he said.

"But there's a reason why people think I have a chance to win here, because I played very well the last few months and won against them."

Murray, 21, reached the US Open final last year and won back-to-back Masters series titles, taking his total wins to five for the season and his ranking to fourth -- both British records.

He has already beaten Nadal and 13-time Grand Slam winner Federer in a seven-match unbeaten run this year, raising hopes the British Slam drought may be nearly over.

But Murray agreed that all the top four seeds looked in excellent shape at an Australian Open which remains impossible to call.

"Obviously we've all started reasonably well. No one has lost a set. But the matches get tougher now," he said.

Next up for the Scot is Austria's Jurgen Melzer, who came within two points of victory in their five-set tussle in round three of last year's US Open.

"Melzer is very tough if he plays well. The US Open was, I think, mentally quite a tough one for him," he said.

"He told me after the match he played one of his best matches. I still came through that one.

"I know that I'm going to have to play well to win the match. But I just think mentally going in I'm going to feel better this time than I was going in playing against him at the US Open."