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04 March 2024

Unfazed favourite

The world No4 has been in blistering form and has carried it into the Major in Melbourne. (GETTY IMAGES)

By Gary Meenaghan

So far, so good for the Scotsman. Andy Murray, the 21-year-old favourite at the ongoing Australian Open, has progressed with ease into the third round.

The world No4 has already beaten Andrei Pavel and Marcel Granollers-Pujol on his way to Round Three.

Now he will face Austrian Jurgen Melzer in the first floodlit face-off at the Hisense Arena today.

As favourite, much of the attention has been on the boy from Dunblane. Not just from media and tennis fans, but also from his opponents and rivals.

World No2 Roger Federer has questioned Murray's ability to win a Major, while last year's winner in Melbourne Novak Djokovic appeared irratated when pressed on whether Murray deserved his position leading the elite.

But Murray is taking the attention and negative comments in his stride.

"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 past six or seven months to be in that sort of group. Whether I'm the favourite or not, I don't know."

If Murray overcomes his opponent this afternoon, he will face Radek Stepanek or Fernando Verdasco in his quest for a place in the quarter-finals.

World No1 Rafael Nadal is also in the top half of the draw and, if all goes to form, it is he who Murray would face in the round of eight. The Spaniard, however, will be focusing on today's tie with German Tommy Haas.

Meanwhile, Serb Jelena Jankovic is, like Murray, enjoying the tag of favourite.

The women's world No1 has yet to drop a set on her way to the last 16, beating Austrian Yvonne Meusburger, Belgian Kirsten Flipkens and Ai Sugiyama from Japan.

She now faces Marion Bartoli, and with world No5 Ana Ivanovic and world No6 Venus Williams having crashed out in the previous round, the 23-year-old is confident she can go further.

"It's only my third match and I haven't competed for a while, so little by little I'm getting my rhythm," she said.

"Nobody is going out there just to get a few games and leave the court. Nobody is afraid of anybody.

"That's the interesting part about the sport, it's a great competition."

Ivanovic was beaten yesterday by Russian powerhouse Alisa Kleybanova and the latter will now face Jelena Dokic.

Dokic, who was once world No4 while representing Serbia and Montenegro in 2002, has since been nationalised by Australia and slipped to world No187.

She has stated that this year will be her last attempt at making a comeback and with the passionate "home" crowd behind her she will be looking to beat Kleybanova.