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Cautious Murray facing tough draw
Andy Murray has been handed a tough draw at the Australian Open as he bids to follow up his maiden grand slam title at the US Open with success in Melbourne.
Third seed Murray was paired with Dutchman Robin Haase in a first-round clash which will take place on Tuesday. And while his subsequent three matches - he is then seeded to face Joao Sousa, Florian Mayer and Gilles Simon - are unlikely to pose too many problems, the likely quarter-final match-up with big-hitting Argentinian Juan Martin Del Potro looks tricky.
From then, he is scheduled to meet 17-time grand slam winner Roger Federer, who has won three of their last four meetings on hard courts, with two-time defending champion and world number one Novak Djokovic a probable final foe.
Although Murray will have privately mapped his route to the latter stages, the 25-year-old insists he is not looking past his clash with world number 54 Haase, against whom he has a 1-1 record with the Scot's victory coming in five sets at the 2011 US Open.
Murray said: "It sounds like a cliché, but I don't really ever look beyond the first round of the draws. The strength of the men's game right now means it's dangerous to look too far ahead, so I'm happy taking it match by match."
Murray has performed well in Australia in recent years, reaching finals in 2010 and 2011 before going down in an epic last-four clash with Djokovic 12 months ago.
"I always love coming out to Australia," he said. "It's a great slam and all the players love it. There's a laid-back atmosphere here and it definitely beats the weather back home this time of year. Having said that, it can hit 40 degrees during the day, so fitness and recovery definitely play a big part."
With Rafael Nadal missing Melbourne this year through injury, both Djokovic and Federer would have been eager to avoid Murray in the semi-finals and the luck went the way of the Serbian, who now looks an excellent bet to reach a third successive final.
Djokovic, who arrived at Friday morning's draw on the banks of the River Yarra by boat, opens against Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu and looks set to make untroubled progress to the latter stages. A potential quarter-final opponent is Czech Tomas Berdych with Spain's David Ferrer seeded to stand across the net in the last four.
Federer, who has in the past been blessed with relatively easy draws, has this time been given the toughest schedule of the leading contenders. Although a first-round assignment with France's Benoit Faire should prove straightforward, likely clashes against talented home hope Bernard Tomic, Milos Raonic and seventh seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga look dangerous hurdles.