Melbourne heat an additional concern as big guns close in on a semi-final showdown

Wed, Jan 16, 2013, 00:00

TENNIS: Australian OpenThe big beasts of this Australian Open have yet to be properly stirred. On day two, Andy Murray had a muscle-loosening workout against Robin Haase, and Roger Federer was allowed the freedom of the court as Benoit Paire bent the knee in three uneventful sets. Now, however, both will have to deal with a more lethal enemy en route to a likely encounter in the semi-finals.

Tomorrow Melbourne will be baked in near-century heat, a potential leveller even in seemingly unthreatening circumstances. So it is as well, perhaps, that Murray will play a Portuguese barely known in his own land, Joao Sousa, and Federer meets Nikolay Davydenko, whose past is better known than his future.

Knew little

While Murray said he knew little about the 100th-ranked Sousa, other than he’d “seen him about”, Federer will be playing Davydenko for the 20th time, but it is unlikely the Ukrainian will register his third win against him – especially after taking four sets to get past the Israeli qualifier, Dudi Sela.

After leaving Haase in a heap after 97 minutes of regulation Melbourne summer weather in the Rod Laver Arena, Murray was relaxed enough about entering what is sure to resemble a furnace in the second round. He’s experienced worse.

“The hottest place on the Tour?” he said. “Cincinnati’s probably been up there the couple of times I’ve played there, and the humidity is pretty rough,” he said. “As a junior I played in Paraguay. It was like 43C, 44C, and like 99 per cent humidity. It was a joke.”

If Murray and Federer negotiate their moderate opposition in extreme conditions they will be relieved; what awaits them thereafter will be more serious tests.

Every department

For Federer, it could be a tasty match against Bernard Tomic who last night was again in scintillating form. The brash Australian had too much in every department for the Argentinian Leonardo Mayer, putting him away for the loss of 11 games in an hour and a half.

Murray, meanwhile, is also winning his share of Australian support, especially since the “Crocodile Dunblane” poster went viral on social media networks – even if he was slightly embarrassed by the accompanying words that declared he was, “Coming to get your Sheilas”. ”

The crowd were right behind Murray against Haase, whose flashes of brilliance were never sustained. The Dutchman, who gave Murray a nightmare five-setter in New York two years ago, said later: “He played much better tennis this time. The way he returned today from the start, that’s the best you can get.”

As for Sousa, he somehow has to find tennis that hitherto has been beyond him at this level. “I started last year ranked No 190 and I finished No 101, so it was a big step for me,” he said.

“The ATP tour is another level. I have to improve to play with these guys, but everything is new and I am happy.”

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