Murray handed a tough route to lift first Grand Slam

British No 1may have to face Federer, Nadal and Del Potro at Australian Open

Andy Murray's fall to No 5 in the world rankings always threatened to leave him with a difficult task at next week's Australian Open and the draw, made early this morning, presented the 22-year-old Scot with a huge challenge. Murray may have to beat Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro, three of the world's top four players, if he is to win his first Grand slam title.

Murray, nevertheless, will be looking no further than his first-round opponent. He was drawn to play a qualifier, with the winner to meet France's Marc Gicquel (world No 58) or Italy's Simone Bolelli (world No 95) in the second round. Murray is seeded to meet Nadal in the quarter-finals. Should he make further progress he could then play Del Potro in the semi-finals and Federer in the final.

Britain's top two women, Elena Baltacha and Katie O'Brien, who for the first time have earned places in the main draw through their rankings, were both rewarded with first-round matches against lower-ranked opponents. Baltacha (world No 83) faces France's Pauline Parmentier (No 106), while O'Brien (No 87) plays Austria's Patricia Mayr (No 90).

Murray played an exhibition match across the city at Kooyong yesterday and enjoyed a comfortable 6-4, 6-1 victory over Sam Querrey. It was the Scot's first outdoor match of the year and the experience of playing in windy conditions would have been useful. It was so blustery that Querrey completely missed the ball while attempting one smash.

"It was windy, but I could just work on a few things like coming forward and hitting some volleys," Murray said. "I've been working on that part of my game and it worked well. I enjoyed myself."

The match was a one-off and not part of the exhibition tournament being staged this week at the former home of the Australian Open. It was not a good day for the organisers. Novak Djokovic went out, thrashed 6-1, 6-2 by Fernando Verdasco, while Del Potro withdrew with a wrist injury and Robin Soderling retired against Ivan Ljubicic with an elbow problem.

Laura Robson was among those hoping to join the other Britons in the main draw via the qualifying competition, though she was facing a difficult task in today's second round against Michaella Krajicek, a former world No 30. Twenty-four hours earlier Robson had won her first match in qualifying against Sophie Ferguson, a 23-year-old Australian.

There is sometimes barely more than one man and a possum watching qualifying matches here. You see the possums in the park outside the tennis centre, though the furry creatures appeared reluctant to venture out given that dozens of them dropped dead from the trees during the 43C heatwave earlier this week.

Although there were no reported sightings of wildlife out on Court Six yesterday there were almost as many people in the stands as you might expect when the tournament proper starts. The presence of Ferguson, the world No 148, probably brought in some spectators, but the majority appeared to have come to see her opponent, the 15-year-old British No 9 and world No 406.

Robson, who was born in this city before her Australian parents eventually settled in Britain, attracted plenty of attention here last year on her way to the junior final. Last week she became even bigger news with her exploits alongside Murray in the Hopman Cup in Perth and was rewarded with a wild card into the qualifying tournament for the senior competition here.

When she last tried to qualify for a Grand Slam tournament Robson was 4-0 up in the final set of the final round in New York only to lose after having trouble breathing while trying to fend off a panic attack. There were times when the 2008 junior Wimbledon champion again looked nervous, but her determination won the day in a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 victory over Ferguson.

The Australian had fought her way back into the deciding set after going an early break down, but Robson played a splendid game when her opponent served at 4-5. A big forehand return, a lovely backhand cross-court winner and a cracking forehand down the line created two match points. Fighting to stay in the next rally, Robson put up a clever defensive lob which Ferguson put into the net.

"I can't remember the last time I played like that," Robson said later. "It was really windy and I obviously didn't play my best tennis, but I hung in there."

Another Briton, 20-year-old Naomi Cavaday, was facing an even tougher task today than Robson after beating Russia's Alexandra Panova 3-6, 7-6, 6-3. Cavaday was playing Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer, the world No 16, who had to enter qualifying after her successful appeal against a suspension for breaching the drugs "whereabouts'"rule came after the cut-off date for tournament entries.

A third Briton, Mel South, lost to the American Shenay Perry, while Alex Bogdanovic and James Ward went out to Turkey's Marcel Ilhan and Ukraine's Ilya Marchenko respectively. Dan Evans, who was playing Spain's Santiago Ventura today, was the only British man left in the qualifying competition.

1

Number of British women to reach the third round of the Australian Open in the last 19 years. Elena Baltacha achieved it in 2005.

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.

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea