Andy Murray is so used to being alone at Grand Slam events outside of Wimbledon, he must almost have given up hope of having some British company, at least among the singles players.

However, as the world No 3 continued his preparations for his Australian Open title bid yesterday, he kept a close eye on the performance of his old friend, Jamie Baker, as he attempted to qualify for the main draw for the second time in six years.

The end of the Baker-Donald Young match coincided with the end of Murray's press commitments and as Murray warmed down in the gym, he could hardly have been happier to see his fellow Scot earn a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 victory and a place in round one.

Loading article content

Murray bounded down the corridor beside the locker rooms to congratulate Baker and on Tuesday the 26-year-old will have the chance to record a first Grand Slam win when he plays Lukas Rosol, the man who beat Rafa Nadal at Wimbledon.

Baker was invited to join Murray at his winter training programme in Miami during December and after three-and-a-half weeks in the Florida sun, his fitness and new, more aggressive attitude on court was evident as he outlasted Young, once one of the most talented young players in America.

Speaking before he knew the result, Murray said Baker had trained well in Miami. "He worked hard, like always," the US Open champion said. "It would be great for him [to qualify]. He's probably one of the lowest ranked guys in the qualies, as well. Donald has been a very, very good player. So if he can come through, that will give Jamie a lot of confidence."

Confidence is the one thing that world No 246 Baker admits he has lacked throughout a career beset by injuries and a life-threatening illness, a blood disorder, in 2008. He admitted yesterday that things had got so bad at one stage that he became beset by what he believes was clinical depression, struggling to figure out what to do and where to go next.

"For a couple of years after I had the freak illness, I was carrying baggage of feeling like I was hard done by," he said. "I was really on a roll at the time and I was feeling deprived of the opportunity that I had created for myself.

"I suffered quite badly from depression after it. Tennis had been my whole life but I just couldn't figure out where everything was, what priorities I had. I didn't go to see anybody but I've researched it and there's no doubt that I was having difficulty. But I didn't choose to see a clinical psychologist."

Murray, meanwhile, goes into the first Grand Slam of the year high on confidence, just four months on from his US Open triumph, and after doing the hard yards in Florida he looks fighting fit as he aims to double his tally in majors.

He reiterated that he has never felt more relaxed going into a Grand Slam event. With the pressure off, many expect him to add a second title immediately, even if no-one in the Open era has followed their first win with another at the next opportunity.

The Scot feels he could not be in better shape physically, but it is his mental state that appears to have gone up another level. "I kind of always felt like I was having to prove something every time I went on the court, because I hadn't won a slam," he said. "So it's nice just to kind of not have to worry about that any more. I think it will help me throughout the rest of the year."

A third Scot, Colin Fleming, also enjoyed a good day yesterday as he and Bruno Soares won the Auckland doubles title, beating Johan Brunstrom and Freddie Nielsen 7-6, 7-6. Fleming had teamed up with Soares for the first time after the news emerged that his regular partner, Englishman Ross Hutchins, had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a form of cancer.

Hutchins began chemotherapy last week and Fleming dedicated the win to his friend, as Murray had when he lifted the title in Brisbane last week.

"It's obviously been a tough time," Fleming told the crowd. "I normally play with Ross Hutchins and he can't be here unfortunately. It was just nice to be able to win and send a little message of support to him. It's all about positivity for him. Everyone in the tennis world is supporting him and it's just nice to be able to send that to him. He's got a tough fight ahead but he's very positive and I know he's going to get through it."

In Hutchins' absence, Fleming will partner Jamie Murray at the Australian Open. James Ward, the other British man in qualifying, lost out in the final round to Julian Reister of Germany.

Simon Cambers