Australian Open sparkles in bright blue

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> The new brightblue Plexicushion playing surface installed for this year's Australian Open is not really an issue for Andy Roddick or his closest supporters

Updated: January 28, 2008 15:39 IST
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The new brightblue Plexicushion playing surface installed for this year's Australian Open is not really an issue for Andy Roddick or his closest supporters.

''I don't really care, half my family is color blind anyway, so it doesn't matter,'' he said.
The sixth-seeded Roddick rallied to beat qualifier Lukas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 in the opening round on Monday, afterward describing the new playing surface as slow and gritty.

But when it comes to the color, Roddick doesn't seem to care.

''I think that's something where people are watching on TV,'' he said. ''I don't think it really matters to us too much.''

Top-seeded Roger Federer on Sunday came out in support of the brightblue, saying he preferred it to the green Rebound Ace surface of previous years.

''Oh, yeah, because you could tell that it bothered him a lot throughout the years,'' Roddick joked of Federer's success on the green surface, on which the Swiss star won the 2004, 2006 and 2007 titles.

Roddick won his third consecutive title on Saturday at the Kooyong warmup tournament, giving him a good start to one of his favorite times of the year.

''I think there's always excitement when you start the new year,'' he said on Monday.

''I like this event. It's kind of the few where you can map out four weeks to prepare for one tournament, where it's normally kind of you kind of prepare as you go and have to make adjustments dependent upon results, conditioning, so on and so forth. I kind of like that.''

Murray exits early

Andy Murray felt fit, prepared and confident - then he lost a fourth set tiebreaker to tumble out of the first round and become the first of the top 10 players to exit the Australian Open.

Ninth-seeded Murray of Britain, winner at Doha two weeks ago, lost 7-5, 6-4, 0-6, 7-6 (5) to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.

''I definitely felt like I deserved to win the fourth set and felt physically I was probably in better shape than him going into the fifth,'' said Murray, who last year produced a scintillating fourth round match before losing to Rafael Nadal.

This time, Murray said luck and poor decisions conspired against him.

''It was just a few points here or there, I think a couple of bad decisions, you know, a couple of net cords here and there, that was the end of it,'' he said.

Unlike his first-round loss in 2006, when Murray acknowledged he was unfit, this year he said his preparation was right on track.

''I did all the right preparation, you know, worked very hard on my game and I've improved a lot of my shots,'' he said. ''I'm obviously disappointed that I didn't win the match. I would have wanted to win more than anything.''

Jelena's wrong turn

Third-seeded Jelena Jankovic considers herself lucky to have made it to her first-round match against Tamira Paszek, let alone win it.

After leaving her city hotel Monday for her morning match, Jankovic said she noticed her driver was heading in the opposite direction from Melbourne Park and instead was on his way to the Albert Park practice courts.

''The driver almost brought me to Albert Park,'' the Serbian player said. ''He was thinking I was going to practice. And I was like, 'excuse me, are you taking a new shortcut? Where are you going?''

''So it was actually good that I said something, otherwise I would end up in Albert Park, would miss my practice. Who knows what would happen.''

Jankovic went on to save three match points to beat Paszek 2-6, 6-2, 12-10 in a grueling match that lasted 3 hours, 9 minutes.

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