Lucky loser looks to crush Andy Murray dream
Andy Murray is happy to be facing Stephane Robert in the fourth round of the Australian Open –and not just because the Frenchman is the lowest-ranked player left in the tournament.
Murray would have expected to play either giant American John Isner or Philipp Kohlschreiber in the last 16 but instead it will be Robert, who took the German's place in the draw when he pulled out through injury.
Robert, ranked 119th, initially lost in the final round of qualifying and is the first lucky loser ever to reach the fourth round at Melbourne Park.
The 33-year-old had never previously been beyond the second round of a grand slam, while in his first match of the year in Brisbane three weeks ago, he lost 6-2 6-2 to British number three James Ward.
Murray said: "If he's the first person to do it, it's obviously a big achievement.
"I know him a little bit from when I was coming through the Futures and Challengers circuits. Obviously that was quite a while ago now.
"But it's good to see. He's 33-years-old. It could be easy to stop playing if you're not in the top 100 or necessarily making a great living.
"But it does show if you stick at it, you're professional, and when your chance comes you take it, you can do great things. Great for him. Good for tennis as well.
"He's played six matches already. He'll be match-tight, that's for sure."
Robert had initially been quite hopeful of securing a spot in the draw because he knew his countryman, Gilles Simon, was struggling with an ankle injury.
"I was in the restaurant and I saw him on crutches," said Robert.
"But at that moment I didn't know what my position was in the lucky loser draw."
Indeed, Robert's entry into the draw could scarcely have been more last-minute, with the Frenchman finding out he was playing Aljaz Bedene only 10 minutes before the match.
He said: "I opened a bank account in US dollars and I was filling in a paper for the ATP. So when they called me I put this straight in my bag and then I went to see the referee.
"He told me, 'Okay, you're ready to play? Court 7. Go'. I saw my opponent, I said, 'Okay, see you on court'. And we went and played."
Robert won that one in straight sets and has dropped only one set on his way to the last 16.
The 33-year-old, meanwhile, insists he will not be unhappy to see fourth seed Murray on the other side of the net.
Robert was speaking before Murray had beaten Spain's Feliciano Lopez, and he said: "I prefer to play against Andy Murray, because Feliciano Lopez, I don't like so much his game."