Murray no Open favourite, storms Djokovic

Murray no Open favourite, storms Djokovic

Defending champion Novak Djokovic angrily rejected suggestions Andy Murray had overtaken him in the pecking order after roaring into the Australian Open\’s third round on Wednesday.

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The world number three said Murray, some bookmakers\’ favourite for the Grand Slam title, had to wait in line behind himself, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

“What\’s his ranking and my ranking?” he challenged.

“All respect to Andy, I like him as a person and as a player. He\’s done a lot in the last couple months, and he\’s a very talented player and we can expect him to win some Grand Slams in the future.

“But you cannot put him as the favourite next to Roger and Rafa and myself here at the Australian Open.”

Triple champion Federer also expressed surprise when told Murray was the favourite, while top-ranked Nadal believes Murray is ready to win a Slam.

Murray, who is seeking Britain\’s first Major win since 1936, is currently ranked fourth more than 3,000 points behind Djokovic. But he is already talking up his chances of becoming world number one this year.

However, Djokovic hit impressive form as he dismissed France\’s Jeremy Chardy 7-5, 6-1, 6-3 to set up a third-round clash with American Amer Delic.

He toughed out a competitive first set before taking total control, dropping a trademark backhand on the tramline as he went a double break up in the third.

Djokovic was surprisingly broken as he served for the match but he hit back immediately on Chardy\’s serve, taking the win as the Frenchman netted.

“I feel very nice and comfortable on this court,” he said. “The first round was tricky, I didn\’t play such great tennis, but today was another story.

“Hopefully it can get better in the next match.”

The Serb warned he was improving match by match and felt in better condition than last year, when he won his only Grand Slam trophy.

“I think I\’m playing better and better every match, so this is really important. This is something that I planned to do,” he said.

“If I keep the high level of performance and a good game, I will hopefully get far in the tournament.”

Last year, as well as his victory here, Djokovic also claimed two Masters series titles as well as the season-ending Masters Cup in Shanghai.

But he was beaten by Latvian Ernests Gulbis in his first match of this season, afterwards blaming a change of racquet.

He also missed out on a chance to overtake Federer as world number two when he lost to Finland\’s Jarkko Nieminen in Sydney last week, and suffered occasional lapses in his first match here against Andrea Stoppini.

Djokovic beat Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in last year\’s final after ousting three-time champion Federer in the semis.

Chardy, the world number 68, was making his Australian Open debut and is still seeking his first professional title.