It might be tempting to suggest that the gap in talent between Andy Murray and Illya Marchenko is as wide as the distance between their respective birthplaces of Dunblane and Dneprodzerzhinsk, but last year's Australian Open runner-up is taking nothing for granted.
After sweeping aside Karol Beck, who retired with a back injury here yesterday when trailing 6-3, 6-1, 4-2 in their first-round match, Murray despatched his mother, Judy, and Dani Vallverdu, his friend and hitting partner, to watch Marchenko, who will be his opponent in the second round tomorrow. "They will also watch videos of him on the internet and YouTube and pick up as many things as possible," Murray said.
Judy was making copious notes as 23-year-old Marchenko, from Ukraine, beat Spain's Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo 6-3, 6-4, 6-1. The world No 79 has climbed more than 140 places in the rankings in the past 15 months, but Murray admitted he knows little about him.
About the only time the world No 5 can recall Marchenko coming across his radar was when the British Davis Cup team – minus their best player – lost to Ukraine in Glasgow two years ago. Marchenko beat Josh Goodall in a crucial opening rubber as the visiting team won 4-1, a result that helped to relegate Britain to the competition's third tier at the end of the year.
Murray, who parted company with Miles Maclagan last summer and does not have Alex Corretja, his part-time coach, with him here, said: "I talk at length with Dani about all the matches I play. I actually find it a lot easier to communicate with him because I've known him such a long time and he knows me well. I actually find that good.
"There is a little bit more responsibility on my shoulders. Because Dani has never really coached before, I do have to come up with some tactics myself, but that's been the one thing that since I was young I was always quite good at. I've always enjoyed working out how to play opponents. I trust him [Vallverdu], I trust his judgement. If you talk to him he knows a lot about tennis. He watches loads and plays a lot himself, so it definitely helps having him around and my mum as well."
Murray added: "It can happen in sport that the people around you are also kind of in it for themselves, whereas right now the people who are with me are right behind me and will do whatever it takes to get me ready in training and preparation, down to the small details. I enjoy it. Everyone is working in the right direction."
Marchenko left Dneprodzerzhinsk, which was also the birthplace of Leonid Brezhnev, the former president of the Soviet Union, five years ago to base himself in Donetsk. His big breakthrough came in 2009, when he reached the semi-finals of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. "Now I feel pretty comfortable and confident playing ATP events," he said.
What did he think of Murray? "We're similar players," Marchenko said. "He likes to defend. He's very solid on the baseline. He returns well, he serves well. He's a top player, so I think it will be a very difficult match for me, especially to be playing a guy with the same game as me. I'll have to play the same game – but better. Of course I know more about him than he knows about me, but I don't think he really cares. He will focus on his game, I will focus on mine."
Murray admitted he felt nervous before playing Beck, the world No 101. "Whether or not that was because of the tournament I had last year, or before most Slams, you are pretty nervous, but here more so than most because this is the first tournament of the year," he said. "You don't know quite what is going to happen, especially at the beginning of the match."
The Scot made a cautious start in chilly conditions, but a break of serve in the second game was all he needed to take the first set. Beck hit a handful of spectacular winners, but his mistakes multiplied as Murray took command, breaking serve three times in the second set. In the third set the 28-year-old Slovakian took an injury time-out for treatment to his right shoulder, which he deemed fit only for towel-throwing after Murray had broken again to lead 4-2.
The winner of the Murray-Marchenko match will play Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or Argentina's Eduardo Schwank. Juan Martin del Potro, a straight-sets winner over Dudi Sela, is a potential fourth-round opponent for Murray, although the 2009 US Open champion, returning after a lengthy absence with a wrist injury, will have to beat Marcos Baghdatis next and could face Jürgen Melzer in the third round.
Rafael Nadal was leading 6-0, 5-0 when Brazil's Marcos Daniel retired with a knee injury, while Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian, two masters of the five-set marathon, served up a late-night thriller in Rod Laver Arena. Hewitt, who knows all about after-hours finishes here after winning a match at 4.45am three years ago, had two match points in the final set but went down 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, 8-6 after four hours and 48 minutes, the match finishing just after 1am.
Jamie Murray, Andy's brother, is playing doubles here with Xavier Malisse and had an unusual interruption to a training session. "I think he hit a baby sparrow this morning when he was practising his serve," Andy said. "I think he killed it, although I'm not certain. I haven't spoken to him. It was a pretty traumatic start to the day."Reuse content