Murray docks in Federer's galaxy

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Nine days ago, after losing a Davis Cup doubles rubber featuring Federer in Geneva, Murray tapped the world No 1 on the shoulder and told him it was an honour to be on the same court.

A few years hence, barring misfortune, Federer may reciprocate, underlining the fact that yesterday in Bangkok, Murray received $45,000 (£26,000) for a master class with the magnificent Wimbledon champion.

Federer won, 6-3, 7-5, after 83 minutes, his successful defence of the Thailand Open taking his record run of winning singles finals to 24 - six of them in Grand Slam championships.

A statistic closer to British hearts is that Murray is today ranked No 68 in the world, having been 397th when playing his first ATP Tour event in Barcelona in April.

The teenager from Dunblane recalls that at the start of his rookie year people thought he was stupid to set a season-ending target of the top 100. Now, after an impressive week in Bangkok's Impact Arena, the top 50 beckons.

A learning curve is all very well if there is access to the best education. Murray, last year's US Open junior champion, has made such good use of the seven wild cards he has received, including the one in Bangkok, that his ranking is high enough for him to gain knowledge and experience as a direct entrant to the sport's great practical universities.

Watching Murray compete with Federer was to glimpse a work in progress. As his eyes monitored the great man's every move, Murray's agile mind worked out ways to counter with fleet of foot and suppleness of wrists.

Murray was unable to make the good start he desired, double-faulting twice to lose the second game, and his first serve was again a cause for concern. However, for most of the match his shots flowed as he engaged Federer in some fascinating rallies.

After holding to love in his first two service games, Federer was pushed to deuce in the fifth game. He had to fend off two deuces at 4-2, when a break point was awarded to Murray, only to be taken away after Federer informed the umpire that the line judge had actually called a Murray shot wide, albeit softly.

Although broken in the opening game of the second set, Murray worked his way into the match, saving a break point at 3-1 and recovering the break with an unreturnable forehand drive to level for 3-3.

After saving three break points at 4-4, Murray forced Federer to serve to stay in the set. Federer then made the decisive break for 6-5 with a backhand volley, but he had to save a break point before serving the match out for his 31st win a row.

"Andy will become a good player; I am sure of that," Federer said. "I also lost my first final when I made it onto the Tour. This time he had to face the number one in the world, but it is great experience for him."

Murray said: "I feel good. I played a pretty solid match. I maybe could have returned a little bit better in the first set, but it was always going to be tough. It was intimidating playing a player like Roger who is one of the greatest ever. I was a little nervous at the start, but once I got going it was OK."

Vijay Amritraj, who played tennis for India and had a part in the James Bond film, Octopussy, conducted the on-court television interviews. He wondered if the British press had a licence to kill talent. "I have watched Tim Henman go through it in the last 10 years," Murray said. "I hope they are a bit nicer to me than they were to him."

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