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Does Murray have what it takes to win the Australian Open?

Until a year ago, the prospect of having to play Roger Federer and then Novak Djokovic to win a grand slam title might have caused Andy Murray more than a few sleepless nights.

But that was before he beat both men, Djokovic first and then Federer in the final, to win the Olympics last summer and then edged out Djokovic in the final of the US Open to break his grand slam duck and end Britain’s 76-year wait for a men’s singles champion.

If he is to follow up his New York win by triumphing here, the chances are he will have to beat Federer in the semi-finals and then Djokovic in the final.

Our man in Australia prepares to watch Andy at the Open

It's a tall order but with world No 1 Djokovic having won the title here in each of the past two years, including victory over Murray in the final in 2011 and the semi-finals last year, Murray will probably be glad to have been put in the opposite half of the draw.

As is his custom, Murray will not allow himself to look beyond the first round, a wise move given that his opponent on Tuesday, Robin Haase, has already beaten him once and pushed him very close the other time they met.

The victory was in Rotterdam five years ago but the near-miss was at the US Open just two years ago, when the big-hitting Dutchman blew him off the court in the first two sets, only for Murray to hit back to win in five as Haase tired.

Fortunately for Murray, the form of the world No 54 has dipped alarmingly in recent months, with just two wins to his name since he won the title in Kitzbuhel in July.

A second-round meeting with Australian wildcard John-Patrick Smith or Joao Sousa of Portugal should not prove overly taxing and though likely third-round opponent No 25 seed Florian Mayer can be a tricky customer, Murray looks set fair to the fourth round at least.

From then on, things will get harder, quickly, with Gilles Simon seeded to be waiting in the last 16, Juan Martin Del Potro or Marin Cilic to play in the quarter-finals and then Federer in the semi-finals.

The memory of his defeat by the 17-times grand slam champion in the final at Wimbledon last summer may have only partly been eradicated by his Olympics victory, but with a grand slam title under his belt, the confidence has never been higher.

On a sweltering Melbourne day yesterday, when temperatures hit 38 degrees Celsius before a cool change swept through the city, Murray practised with Juan Monaco and looked sharp as he was put through his paces, under the watchful eye of his coach, Ivan Lendl.

It is just over a year since the pair began working together and what seemed a risky move on paper has turned out to look more like some sort of masterstroke.

The steel so evident in Lendl's game as he transformed himself from a nearly man – like Murray he lost his first four grand slam finals – into an eight-time grand slam champion seems to be evident in the Scot’s demeanour and he has been far more positive in his body language.

There is still the odd lapse but Murray knows how to handle it more now and as Pat Cash, the former Wimbledon champion, said yesterday, at the age of 25, he is now hitting his peak.

His mother, Judy, is here to support her youngest son (and her eldest, Jamie, in the doubles events) and speaking at a coaches' conference yesterday, she explained the changes she had seen since Lendl came on board.

“The thing that has impressed me most since Andy started working with Ivan is the focus, it's absolutely massive,” she said. “You see it with Djokovic, Rafa (Nadal) and Federer; the eyes are on the goal – we’re going to do absolutely everything we have to do to get there. I think it comes with maturity. Sometimes you just have to wait until a player's ready in their mind to do it.”

Djokovic, looking rested and fit, was present for the draw, which was held on the banks of the Yarra river and involved the defending champion arriving on a boat with women’s champion Victoria Azarenka to lend a bit of glamour to the ceremony.

It wasn't quite in the class of David Beckham's arrival at the Olympics but both champions seemed relaxed and confident, especially Djokovic, who is trying to become the first man in the Open era to win the title in three consecutive years.

“I'm feeling great and I'm looking forward to contesting the first grand slam of the year," the Serb said. "Everyone starts at the same place and we all start equal, but I'm feeling really good.”

As with Murray in the men's event, the whereabouts of the No 3 seed in the women’s draw was the subject of most anticipation yesterday.

Serena Williams, who won Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open last year, is seeded behind defending champion Azarenka and No 2 Maria Sharapova but considered by almost everyone to be the favourite to win her 16th grand slam title.

Azarenka did well to keep the disappointment off her face when she saw the Williams name drawn in her half, leaving Sharapova far more satisfied with Agnieska Radwanska her likely semi-final opponent, though she won’t look past Venus Williams in round three.

Laura Robson will have good memories going into her first-round match with American Melanie Oudin, having beaten her in the qualifying event this time last year. The world No 50 could play former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in round two, which would be a mouthwatering prospect.

Robson will not be in action until Tuesday, leaving Heather Watson, at No 43 the highest-ranked Briton, to take centre stage on Monday when she plays world No 89 Alexandra Cadantu of Romania.

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