ROGER Federer has backed his own chances for lifting a fourth Australian Open title while marvelling that British bookies are tipping untried Andy Murray for the trophy.
"Murray's the favourite? good for him, but it doesn't help him a lot," said the Swiss player at the presentation of the eight-man Kooyong Classic, considered the top tune-up for the grand slam starting on Monday.
But after losing twice to the Scot this month, once at an unofficial exhibition and in the Doha ATP semi-finals, Federer does give the number four player his due.
"He's put himself into a great position," said the 13-time grand slam champion who could pull level on the all-time best of 14 held by Pete Sampras with a title in Melbourne.
"He's playing well and finished well last year.
"But I'm surprised that the bookies say he's the favourite.
"He's never won a slam, it's surprising to hear."
Murray, losing US Open finalist to Federer four months ago, has come out on top in his most recent meetings against four major rivals: Rafael Nadal, Federer, Novak Djokovic and most recently Andy Roddick in the Doha final.
"Andy shown for a year that's he's knocking on the door," said Federer.
"He's playing with good confidence.
"But winning a slam is a different animal, not many guys have been able to do it.
"Rafa and I have taken a lot of them.
"They don't come easy, but he has a chance like many other players."
Federer will open his Kooyong campaign on Wednesday when he faces likeable Spanish veteran Carlos Moya, whom he has beaten all seven times they've met.
The rest of the opening-day lineup at the promotion-relegation special event includes former Melbourne finalist Marcos Baghdatis against Federer's Swiss Davis Cup teammate Stan Wawrinka, Croatian Marin Cilic facing Brisbane finalist Fernando Verdasco and event veterans Ivan Ljubicic taking on Fernando Gonzalez.
Federer said he is pleased to be on full fitness and feeling good with his game after missing Kooyong a year ago with illness.
And he still feels his lengthy run of grand slam success gives him the edge.
"I have high hopes and aim to play well from the start," said the world number two.
"Of course I'm trying to beat the record of 14 from Sampras so we will see how it goes."
The Swiss player said he feel much less pressure at this stage than he did a few seasons ago.
"I felt the most (pressure) when (I) reached six or seven slam titles and everyone was expecting me to win every match I played. That's gone away and it's a relief.
"But I'm very motivated and will remain so for a long time. I just don't feel a lot of pressure now."
I'm quite liking the smug arrogant Fed these days.