Murray comeback faces Federer test
TENNIS: Playing Roger Federer has always been special for Andy Murray, and when the Scotsman takes on the former world No.1 in tonight's quarter-final at the Australian Open, it will have even more meaning than usual.
Just two tournaments into his comeback following back surgery in September, the Wimbledon champion said he was close enough to the finish line to know he was in with a chance of taking his second grand slam.
"It's a big match for me," Murray said. "I said at the start of the tournament that I can't honestly say my expectations are as high as if I'd been playing for the last four months.
"It's been a good effort so far to get to the quarter-finals of a slam this soon after back surgery, so I'm happy with that. But I'm not far away from winning the event. Anyone that's in the quarters is close."
Murray has won 11 of his 20 matches against Federer, and three of the last four, including last year's quarter-final at the Australian Open.
"Obviously last year is pretty relevant because it's on the same court and it will be under the same conditions," the Scot said.
"But in an individual sport, any day is a new day. Anything can happen. You play 10% below your best, you can be off the court quickly. So whether my tactics are great or not, I need to play a great match to win."
As well as Murray has played so far at Melbourne Park, Federer has also been in great touch, having little trouble dispatching Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3 7-5 6-4 in the fourth round.
Not only is the 32-year-old Swiss ace showing the benefit of working with new coach, former tour star Stefan Edberg, he has also been serving and returning particularly well, something he attributed to the larger racquet he has been using.
"I do believe I have easier power with the racquet on the serve. It might help me on the return, as well," Federer said. "I hope it is the case. I still need to put many more matches and hours on it, but so far so good. It's a great start to the season."
Today's other quarter-final will see top seed Rafael Nadal take on Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov.
Meanwhile, Australian Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter has named teenagers Nick Kyrgios, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Jordan Thompson in his team to face France in the World Group first round from January 31.
With Bernard Tomic sidelined because of a hip injury, Rafter hopes the youngsters, who made a big impression in the Aussie Open, will complement the experience of Lleyton Hewitt and doubles specialist Chris Guccione.
The tie will be played on clay in the French city of La Roche-sur-Yon.
- THE INDEPENDENT