Djokovic stars as the third man

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Serb serves reminder of his world ranking in face of growing Murraymania

Every other question to the leading players here at the Australian Open seems to be about Andy Murray. Do they see the world No 4 as the favourite for the title after his recent run of form? Does he have a hold over Roger Federer, having beaten him three times in a row? Can he take over from Rafael Nadal as world No 1?

Novak Djokovic, the world No 3 and defending champion here, has heard enough. Asked yesterday whether he saw Murray as "the third man" behind Nadal and Federer, he retorted: "What's his ranking and my ranking?"

The 21-year-old Serb added: "I like him as a person and as a player. He's done a lot in the last couple of months and he's a very talented player. We can expect him to win some Grand Slams in the future, but you cannot put him as the favourite next to Roger and Rafa and myself here at Australian Open."

Djokovic is not the only player underwhelmed by Murraymania. Federer, who expressed surprise last week at Murray's status as pre-tournament favourite, explained his irritation to a small group of Swiss reporters.

"You have four or five years where everybody praises you for all the things you do and then, all of a sudden, you have to answer questions about other players, what makes them so unique and special and what's the problem you have with them," Federer said. "When you have to do that in every country and in all the languages I speak, then it's not much fun, I can tell you.

"It's the same here with all the questions about Andy. He's a great player, no doubt. Everybody knows it and I said that about him a hundred times. But after the 10th time they want me to say it again but in another way – and that's what I don't like."

Murray himself is regularly asked whether he can become world No 1 but does not find it a distraction "because that's what I want to try and do". He added: "I'm happy to answer questions about it. I just need to make sure that I keep working hard and don't get too far ahead of myself, because if I play like I did for the last three or four months of last year I can do it, but it's one thing talking about it and it's another thing trying to do it on the court."

The British No 1 finds himself on centre stage again today. The evening programme in the Rod Laver Arena, the main show court, starts at 7.30pm (8.30am GMT), with Murray's second-round match against Marcel Granollers following Venus Williams's encounter with Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro.

Murray will do well to win as emphatically as Djokovic and Federer, who moved into the third round with resounding victories. Djokovic, whose Melbourne preparations featured unlikely defeats to Ernests Gulbis and Jarkko Nieminen, was particularly pleased with his serve and returns in a 7-5, 6-1, 6-3 win over France's Jeremy Chardy. "I'm playing better and better," he said after the match.

Federer was even more impressive, crushing Evgeny Korolev 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 to set up a third-round meeting with Marat Safin, who beat him in an epic semi-final on his way to the title here four years ago. The Russian saved a match point and won the fifth set 9-7 after four and a half hours.

Safin, who beat Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 yesterday, was asked whether much had changed since that match in 2005. "Well, his life also changed," Safin said with a smile. "His hasn't gone too badly. He won a couple of Grand Slams afterwards.

"Me? I got injured. I had to recover from the injuries, so we went in different ways. He got much more confident through the years and I had to recover from injury. So I'd like to be in his shoes."

The latest injury was suffered during a brawl back home in Russia, after which Safin turned up at the Hopman Cup in Perth sporting two black eyes. "I won the fight," he said. "I got in trouble in Moscow. I wasn't in the right place at the right time."

Safin said he was looking forward to playing Federer. "Every time I play against him I have very close matches," he said. "I have nothing to worry about. I'm going to play my match. We know each other pretty well. He knows how to play against me, I know how to play against him. Unfortunately I haven't won a lot of matches against him, but it's another chance. I have nothing to lose. I'm going to go for it."

He added: "I had my best years a few years ago before I got injured, but it's much easier to play without any pressure. Now there are a lot of new players coming in. Djokovic is playing great tennis. Murray is playing incredibly well."

David Nalbandian was considered an outside tip for the title here after his win in Sydney, but the Argentine became the highest-profile loser so far this week when he was beaten 6-4, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 by Yen-Hsun Lu, the world No 61. Lu, from Chinese Taipei, beat Murray in the first round of the Beijing Olympics.

Jelena Dokic thrilled the home crowd by beating Anna Chakvetadze, the No 17 seed, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 in the first match of the evening session, but 16-year-old Bernard Tomic was unable to repeat his heroics of the previous round and went down 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 to Gilles Muller.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links