Melbourne, Australia:Roger Federer usually starts as favorite to win the Australian Open, so he wanted to know who had the audacity to install Andy Murray ahead of him.
Federer arrived in Australia over the weekend after losing to Murray in the semifinals at Doha, Qatar. On Tuesday, he faced a news conference for the Kooyong exhibition tournament, his traditional tuneup for the year's first major.
Some British bookers listed Murray as favorite in the betting for the Jan. 19-Feb. 1 event after he defended his Doha title and won an exhibition at Abu Dhabi, also featuring Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Federer, who will equal Pete Sampras' record 14 Grand Slam titles if he wins his fourth Australian Open final, was surprised to hear it.
"Who said that? The bookies? Good for him," Federer said. "It doesn't help him a whole lot. I've been in that position before as well and didn't make it."
Federer said Murray, a 21-year-old from Dunblane, Scotland, was a contender due to his form and No. 4 ranking, but winning a Grand Slam was a new level.
Federer and Nadal have won 14 of the last 15 Grand Slam titles between them, with only No. 3-ranked Novak Djokovic breaking the sequence when he won the last Australian title.
"He's put himself in a great position. He started off well, going well in Doha. He finished strong last year. It still does surprise me that the bookies say that," Federer said. "He's never won a Slam.
"Novak is the defending champion here. Rafa had an incredible season last year. I won the last slam of last season. It's surprising to hear."
The 27-year-old Swiss star missed the Kooyong event last year because of a lingering illness but is back this year and will start Wednesday against Carlos Moya of Spain.
He started 2008 with 12 Grand Slam titles and was expected to at least equal Sampras' record, but he only added one and finished the year behind Nadal after his record streak of 237 weeks at No. 1 ended Aug. 18.
He lost last year's Australian Open semifinals to Djokovic. He lost the French Open and Wimbledon finals to Nadal before retaining the U.S. Open title in September, beating Murray in the final.
That was Murray's best run in 12 majors, his previous best being a quarterfinal exit at Wimbledon. His record in Australia is two first-round losses either side of a fourth-round loss in 2007.
Murray won five ATP tour titles in 2008, second only to Nadal's eight, and is 5-2 against Federer, including three wins since the U.S. Open final.
"He's shown for a year now he's knocking on the door, trying to make his move," Federer said. "Sure, he's put himself in a position, but winning a Grand Slam is a different animal.
"Not many guys have been able to win a Grand Slam in the last few years. Rafa and me took a lot of them, Novak won here last year. They don't come easily."