Over to you, Andy

Our man at Melbourne Park, Tim Clement, reflects on further English failures Down Under

By Tim Clement - Twitter: @SkyTimClement.   Last Updated: 13/01/14 1:09pm

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Andy Murray: Only British hope in Australian Open singles draw after first day

Andy Murray: Only British hope in Australian Open singles draw after first day

Sky Bet

Day one of the Australian Open lent itself to the bleak former days of British tennis as Andy Murray was abandoned as solitary representative.

Both Laura Robson and Heather Watson were left disappointed in contrasting manners, with Kirsten Flipkens and Daniela Hantuchova their conquerors as the English misery Down Under continued.

However, while the inquisition continues as England's cricket team toiled again at the MCG across the road, demanding much more from either would be harsh as they were both overcome by higher seeds in difficult circumstances.

Robson, who had little more than half a match worth of practice under her belt in 2014 due to a wrist problem, was facing a Wimbledon semi-finalist who offers the sort of challenge she is also too often undone by.

The Belgian possesses a resolute defence and puts the emphasis on her opponents, forcing Robson to go for broke and eventually implode in a 50-minute loss.

Stats the story

Indeed, the story is told clear by the unforced error stats, with the 19-year-old guilty of 32 unforced errors to Flipkens' four.

Watson's was a far more even affair but she was ultimately undone by her vulnerability on serve, facing a hefty 13 break points and hitting 10 less winners than her opponent during the three-set battle.

The British No 3 was in buoyant mood heading into the main draw, having progressed through qualifying after seeing her ranking drop down to 121.

The bad news is that will plummet further as she reached the third round here last year, but the signs are positive at least with the 21-year-old appearing fully fit again.

Fitness has very much been the word following the British hopes, with the remaining one playing down expectations amid a lack of match practice.

The closest Murray has come to a competitive environment since his back surgery is a three-set loss to Florian Mayer, leaving him somewhat undercooked heading into the season's first Grand Slam.

He will be relieved with the scheduling as he will feature not before 5pm local time (6am GMT) amid forecast highs of 43c, with any proceeding matches going the distance more than welcome.

A first meeting with Go Soeda will be Murray's opening task with either qualifier Vincent Millot (267 ranked) or Wayne Odesnik (139) awaiting in the second round.

It gets a lot tougher from there on but the Scot has consistency stressed he cannot look beyond his first match following such a significant layoff.

Talk of the press room

There was a press conference called ahead of the heat wave (apparently Monday's 35c doesn't count as hot) as temperatures are expected to reach the 40s over the week, with officials playing down concerns.

Tennis is not considered a "high risk" sport according to the tournament's head doctor, while the complicated Extreme Heat Policy is to be applied at the discretion of the referee, with the possibility of play continuing at 40c+ not ruled out.

Good luck if you've got a five-setter on the go Tuesday afternoon...

Predictions

I've already put my neck on the block and suggested Murray can defy his hefty odds and lift the trophy in my Australian Open preview - you can following that tip by backing him at 9/1 with Sky Bet.

I was going to suggest Leyton Hewitt looks good bet to oust seed Andreas Seppi before I saw the odds, with the Italian 100/30 outsider despite winning their last encounter in straight sets.

Hewitt rolled back the years to win the Brisbane International and then beat Murray in an exhibition match, so I'd suggest backing him to win in either four (13/5) or five (6/1) amid the blistering heat for value in what should be a tight-fought contest.

The superbly named Aussie wild card Storm Sanders (13/8) is my tip for an upset against Camila Giorgi, having beaten Shuai Peng and pushed Kirsten Flipkens to three sets in Hobart.

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