Andy can serve up semi spot

Federer is backing Murray to defy the odds at SW19

Eleanor Crooks

ANDY MURRAY was set to begin his Wimbledon campaign today, the last match scheduled on Centre Court, against Nikolay Davydenko, and he has already been backed to reach the semi-finals for the fourth successive year by six-time champion Roger Federer.

Murray is once again bidding to become the first British winner of the tournament since Fred Perry in 1936, and his results in recent months coupled with the form of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Federer means there is a little less optimism than usual.

Federer, though, expects Murray to reach the last four, where he would likely meet Nadal, although the Swiss admitted he had not seen the world number four's draw, which looks as testing as they come.

"I think he wants to first get through the first round, like all of us," said Federer, who swept aside Albert Ramos yesterday. "But absolutely. I predict him to get there.

"Home-court advantage, playing on grass, with his talent and his game, everything's right there for him. It's up to him to make it happen. I guess you always need a little bit of luck along the way.

"Every year, I'm very excited to see him play and get out there on Centre Court most likely every time and battle it out.

"I haven't played Andy a whole lot the last couple of years. Obviously being ranked three and four for a while now, we haven't seen each other that often in the draws. I hope he does well."

Attention will also be focused on Murray's suspect back, which troubled him throughout the French Open, where he eventually went out in the quarter-finals to David Ferrer -- the first time he had not reached at least the last four in six grand slams.

The Scot was criticised for how he reacted to his injury troubles, with Virginia Wade calling him a drama queen and John McEnroe questioning whether the problem was largely in his head.

Murray reacted angrily to such insinuations at the weekend, and he received support yesterday from world number one Djokovic, who has also been forced to defend himself against similar accusations.


The Serbian said: "I've known him for a long time. I know he's a great competitor. He's a great fighter.

"He has a lot of pressure, a lot of expectation, especially here in Great Britain.

"He has all the qualities to be a grand slam winner. There is no doubt. And regarding the injuries, yes, I went through that period in my life where people were questioning my injuries.

"If I'm hurt, I'm hurt. I never asked for any medical time-outs or things like that if I have no reason. So I believe that's the situation with him."

Djokovic began his Wimbledon title defence in cruise control as he blasted Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero off court to win 6-3 6-3 6-1 in the first round yesterday.

The number one seed endured an edgy start and was broken in the third game of the first set, but struck back immediately and closed out the opener with his usual combination of rugged defence and consistently accurate groundstrokes.

The Serb, who had the honour of opening Centre Court action after beating Rafa Nadal in the 2011 final, was in no mood for hanging around and broke the Spaniard twice in the second set and twice more in the third.