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Murray warming up to pass Go in Australian Open

It’s already warming up nicely at the Australian Open and I’m not just talking about the tennis.

Melbourne is well known for its weather extremes and players can again expect temperatures to climb above 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the next fortnight – fitness and endurance will be every bit as important as skill and tenacity.

Andy Murray is as tough as they come, but even he is worrying about how he will cope if it gets really silly. The Scot, 7/1 to win a tournament in which he has finished runner-up in three of the past four years, is as ready, physically and mentally, as he can be for whatever comes his way, but the last thing he wants is a gruelling first round match against the Japanese Go Soeda.

On paper, Murray shouldn’t be too severely tested by a player ranked 112 in the world and Coral rate him something of a shoo-in at 1/33. But Go got into the top 50 last year before getting injured and has the all-action game that will, at the very least, give the Wimbledon champion a good work-out.

At least Murray seems to have been more fortunate with his first round pairing than Rafael Nadal, who has drawn Aussie Bernard Tomic, a dangerous 100/1 outsider for the tournament.

Coral rate Murray a 5/4 chance to win his quarter of the draw ahead of Roger Federer at 11/4 and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at 7/2, while Nadal would appear to have an easier path to the last four if he can overcome Tomic in front of a partisan home crowd and is 10/11 to win his quarter ahead of Juan Martin De Potro (9/4).

Novak Djokovic, 8/11 to make it four Australian Open wins in a row, came through in straight sets in his first round match, but there were shocks in the women’s tournament with sixth and seventh seeds, Petra Kvitova and Sara Errani crashing out to Thai Luksika Kumkhum and German Julia Goerges respectively. Seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams also fell at the first hurdle.

Goerges was pretty impressive in making short work of Errani in straight sets, but can still be backed at 250/1 with Coral to go all the way.

Less surprisingly, Brits Laura Robson and Heather Watson were also knocked out in the first round of a competition that seems likely to be once again dominated by Victoria Azarenka (5/1), bidding for her third successive Australian Open title, and world number one Serena Williams (4/7), who quite predictably sailed through her first round test without needing to engage top gear.