'Novak goes in as favourite... He's double defending champ'
Federer eliminated by Murray but expects Scot to lose in Sunday's final to holder Djokovic
Andy Murray is too strong-minded a character to let anyone else's opinion affect him, but Andre Agassi and Roger Federer, who have won more Australian Opens than any other players in the last 40 years, both see Novak Djokovic as the favourite to win Sunday's final.
Although Djokovic nearly went out to Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round, the world No 1 demolished Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer in his next two matches and has the benefit of an extra day of rest as he attempts to match the tally of four Melbourne titles held by Agassi and Federer.
Agassi, who has returned to Melbourne Park for the first time since his last appearance here eight years ago, said yesterday: "Given the quality of play and the second life that Djokovic has after that Wawrinka match, I would give him the edge. He certainly has a lot to prove from last year's final at the US Open. He plays well down here."
Federer agreed. "Obviously Novak goes in as the favourite, I would think, even though Andy beat him at the US Open," the world No 2 said. "Maybe a day extra is going to make a difference, though it's not back to back. He has a day.
"He's had an easy run until the semis. Maybe it's something that Andy needed going into the finals. But obviously Novak is the double defending champion here. He's done really well again this tournament, digging himself out of the hole against Stan, coming and playing good tennis against Berdych and Ferrer."
Friends and rivals since they first met at an under-12s tournament in the south of France, Murray and Djokovic have met 17 times as seniors, the Serb winning 10 times. Djokovic, who is a week younger than Murray, won their first four meetings, but recently the honours have been more evenly shared. Nevertheless, Djokovic has come out on top in both their meetings in Melbourne, winning in straight sets in the 2011 final and then edging a five-set marathon at the semi-final stage last year.
Djokovic has a remarkable recent record in Grand Slam tournaments. He has reached 11 successive semi-finals, while tomorrow will be his seventh appearance in the last nine Grand Slam finals, of which he has won four. Since winning the 2011 Australian Open, the only Grand Slam finals he has failed to reach were at the 2011 French Open and at Wimbledon last year.
Murray, nevertheless, is building a similar record of consistency. Sunday will be his sixth Grand Slam final, his third in a row and his third at the Australian Open following defeats to Federer in 2010 and Djokovic in 2011.
It will also be Murray's first appearance in a final as Grand Slam champion. Asked whether that would make a difference, he said: "I have no idea. I'll see obviously how I feel when I get on the court. I would hope so, but the task isn't any easier.
"I'm obviously playing Novak again on this court. This has been his best court for sure, so I'm aware of how tough it will be to win the match."
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