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Federer surprised by 'favorite' tag for Murray

WORLD No. 2 Roger Federer reacted with surprise yesterday when asked what he thought about the bookmakers making British No. 1 Andy Murray a favorite for next week's Australian Open.

"He's the favorite?" Federer asked reporters at the Kooyong Classic yesterday. "Good for him. It won't help him a whole lot," the smiling Swiss added.

Murray, who lost the US Open final to Federer last year, is the in-form player, having beaten Federer and world No. 1 Rafael Nadal to install himself as one of the short-priced tips for Melbourne Park.

Federer, however, was quick to point out being the bookmakers' favorite did not necessarily translate into success. "I've been in that position before and didn't make it," the 13-time grand slam winner added.

"It surprises me that the bookies would say that because he hasn't won a slam. Novak (Djokovic) won here last year. Rafa (Rafael Nadal) had an incredible season last year.

"I won the last slam of last season so it is surprising to hear."

Federer did, however, admit that Murray, who has a favorable 5-2 record against him and is now ranked fourth in the world, had improved dramatically in the past 12 months.

"I think he has shown for a year now he has been knocking on the door to make his move.

"I just think he got used to playing at a high level consistently. Before he was very up and down.

"He has played excellent. He's a good all-round player, has good tactics and has become very confident.

"He has put himself into a winning position, but winning a grand slam is a different animal. Not many guys have been able to win grand slams in the last few years."

Federer missed the tournament last year with glandular fever, an illness that affected his form for much of the first half of last year. He lost in the semifinals of the Australian Open to eventual champion Djokovic and also ceded the No. 1 ranking that he had held for a record 237 weeks to Nadal last August.

A back injury also restricted his performances but he still won his fifth successive US Open at Flushing Meadows.

"I'm feeling really good," the 27-year-old Swiss said. "I was feeling quite bad here last year, which is why I couldn't play. It's why I'm really happy to be part of it this year. It's a great tournament and I love playing here because it is great preparation for me for the Australian Open."


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