Andy Murray will continue his build-up for next week's Australian Open by playing Mario Ancic, Croatia's Davis Cup hero, in the second round of the Heineken Open in Auckland - probably tomorrow.
Ancic was the last player to beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon - in the 2002 first round - on his debut as an 18-year-old qualifier. The big server from Split reached the semi-finals in 2004, gaining the nickname "Baby Goran". He ended last season by winning the decisive rubber for Croatia against Slovakia in the Davis Cup final in Bratislava, and is ranked 21st in the world, 41 places above Murray.
The 18-year-old Scot mastered windy conditions in the first round yesterday to defeat Kenneth Carlsen, a 32-year-old Danish left-hander, 7-5, 6-2, then made an unforced error by telling an on-court reporter: "I thought we both played like women in the first set." Murray's remark was booed.
Later, the Scot explained that he was referring to comments made last week by the Russian player, Svetlana Kuznetsova, at the Hopman Cup: "I was watching a Hopman Cup match on TV, and Kuznetsova said it after there were nine breaks in the first set." Carlsen has won three ATP titles and holds the record for first-round defeats in Grand Slam singles tournaments: 28. The Dane injured an ankle towards the end of the Murray match.
"I won and that's the most important thing, " said Murray, who began double-faulting after winning the opening three games. "I started to play better in the second set, so that will give me confidence," he added.
Ancic, the fifth seed, defeated Mark Nielsen, of New Zealand, a wild card, 6-1, 6-2.
Martina Hingis lost 6-3, 6-3 to Justine Henin-Hardenne, of Belgium, in the opening round at the Sydney International, Hingis's first match against a top 10 player for three years. Hingis, who won three matches on her comeback on the Gold Coast last week, struggled against the the groundstrokes of the French Open champion, who delighted in attacking her slower second serves.
Although the Belgian was unable to compete during the last three months of 2005 because of a leg injury, she was far too sharp for the 25-year-old former world No 1. "If you want to play someone like Justine, a top-10 player, it's a different ball game," Hingis said.Reuse content