Tennis

Britain's Andy Murray plays Sam Groth in the Australian Open second round on Thursday..

Andy Murray targets Sam Groth as another Australian scalp

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Australia is probably sick of the sight of Andy Murray as he lines up another shot at one of the country's star players.

The British number one takes on local favourite Sam Groth at the Australian Open in Melbourne on Thursday.

He will be hoping to record a 15th straight victory against an Australian in official matches and maintain a run against the nation which now stretches back 11 years.

Murray offered a glimmer of encouragement earlier this month when he lost to Nick Kyrgios at the Hopman Cup in Perth, but the tournament is effectively an exhibition event, with zero ranking points on offer and results not counting to players' official records.

It leaves Groth, the 28-year-old who boasts the fastest serve on the planet, bidding to become the first Australian to beat Murray in a tour match since August 2005, when the Scot, still sporting his frazzled, curly hair and a spindly frame, lost to world number 284 Paul Baccanello in Vancouver.

Groth is a new challenger, the pair never having met before in a competitive match, but the odds are firmly in favour of the world number two, whose thrashing of much-fancied youngster Alexander Zverev on Tuesday suggested the Scot is ready to go deep in Melbourne again.

The 6ft 4in Australian powerhouse brings the sort of brutish game Murray thrives against, using his speed, touch and brilliant powers of return to neutralise an opponent's weight of shot.

"I'll be ready for that," Murray said. "I normally enjoy playing against the guys who come forward. I'll need to return well and pass well if I want to win.

"It's my first time playing him in singles, he's a big guy. He serves big and uses serve-and-volley tactics.

"He tries to get forward as much as he can. You don't see many players like that now."

Murray is immensely popular among the world's tennis community, with only the sport's two grandees Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal consistently commanding more affection from fans.

Australians, however, relish a British adversary and if Groth can gain an early foothold, he has the charisma to stoke home support and use it to his advantage.

"He'll obviously have the crowd behind him," Murray said. "He's a very competitive guy so he fights extremely hard, he has a great attitude.

"He'll make it tough for me because he has a different game style to a lot of the players now."

Groth, ranked 67th in the world, has had a turbulent relationship with tennis, twice giving up the game to play Aussie Rules football, first as a 16-year-old and then the second time more seriously, when he joined Melbourne side Vermont Eagles in 2011.

Returning to tennis in 2012, he shot the world's fastest recorded serve of 163mph and last year enjoyed an impressive season, achieving his best performance at each of the four grand slams.

"Hopefully I will serve well and it doesn't come back," Groth said.

"I'm going to take it to him. I'm going to serve big and try to get forward and play aggressively, everything I do normally."

If that fails, there is always the chance Murray might have to retire halfway through, given the Briton's stated intention to leave the tournament if his wife Kim goes into labour with their first child.

"Be nice if his wife went into labour overnight," Groth said. "I might be just cheering for that one."

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