Henman's conqueror Tsonga provides first obstacle for Murray

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The Independent Online

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga ended Tim Henman's Grand Slam career last year and will be hoping to bring a swift conclusion to Andy Murray's Australian Open campaign next week. The 22-year-old Frenchman, who beat Henman in the second round of the US Open in September, will be a tricky first-round opponent for Murray, who should nevertheless feel encouraged by yesterday's draw.

Having avoided the half of the field headed by Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, Murray's projected opponents after Tsonga are Argentina's Juan Pablo Brzezicki and Juan Ignacio Chela, France's Richard Gasquet in the fourth round, Nikolai Davydenko in the quarter-finals and Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals.

Before that, however, he has to overcome Tsonga, who beat Lleyton Hewitt in the semi-finals in Adelaide last week. Murray has met the world No 38 only once on the main ATP tour, beating him in straight sets in Metz three months ago.

Murray, who beat Australia's Brydan Klein 6-2, 7-6 in the Kooyong Classic exhibition tournament here yesterday, expects a tough match. "He's obviously playing really well," the British No 1 said. "He's jumped up the rankings very quickly and probably in the next month or so will be getting seeded at Slams. He's very athletic and he played well here last year against Andy Roddick, who had a really tough match. He has a good serve, he's a good athlete and he hits the ball hard from the baseline."

Federer, who says he will be 100 per cent fit by next week after pulling out of Kooyong with a stomach virus, meets Argentina's Diego Hartfield in the first round. From the fourth round onwards his scheduled opponents are Tomas Berdych, Fernando Gonzalez, whom he beat in last year's final, and Djokovic.

The women's draw is distinctly top-heavy, with Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova, Jelena Jankovic, Amélie Mauresmo and Nicole Vaidisova all in the same half. Svetlana Kuznetsova, Ana Ivanovic and Venus Williams will fancy their chances of emerging from the bottom section.

Two Britons reached the final round of qualifying. Jamie Baker beat Austria's Alexander Peya 6-4, 7-6, while Katie O'Brien beat Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer 4-6, 6-3, 8-6. However, there was disappointment for Alex Bogdanovic, beaten 1-6, 6-4, 7-5 by Germany's Simon Stadler, and for Anne Keothavong and Elena Baltacha, who lost 6-2, 6-4 and 6-4, 6-1 to Romania's Monica Niculescu and China's Shuai Zhang respectively.