MAKE mine Andy Murray.

Sure, I have never been a big fan of Roger Federer but that is not the only reason why I will be rooting for his British opponent when they clash for the Australian Open title today. I love the underdog. And I want to see the 74-year-old drought for British men in the Grand slam end.

Federer was not shy about his being favored against Andy, whom he beat in the 2008 US Open Final (the latter still leads him, 6-4, in their head-to-head, though). “Now that he didn’t win the first one, I think doesn’t help for the second one around,” the Swiss world number one said, according to BBC.

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“Plus he’s playing me, who’s won many Grand Slams prior to that, been able to win here three times so I know what it takes and how to do it, which is definitely and advantage.”

“First of all, he’s a good player; I don’t think otherwise you’re just going to start having good records against me. But without taking anything away from him, I think a few times he played me I wasn’t at my very best.”

“So I think the head-to-head could be quite different. That’s why I don’t really care too much about how the head-to-head stands. Every match is played differently. Best-of-five set matches are very different anyway.”

Reading what he said, you almost cannot recognize that this was the same man who wept like a child after he lost to Rafael Nadal in last year’s finals of the same tournament. So disconsolate was Federer that Nadal spent much of his victory speech trying to comfort his beaten rival. “Don’t worry, Roger, your time will come,” I remember Nadal saying.

Is it Federer’s time now? Could be. First of all, the giant shadow of Nadal, who beat him successively in the French Open, Wimbledon and Australian Open finals, no longer stands in Federer’s way. The lefty has been saddled by injuries last year, and was booted out early in the tournament this year.

But make no mistake about it. Murray is no pushover. Federer was playing mind games with the Scot when he downplayed the latter’s chances against him. He was psyching himself in while at the same time trying to psyche Murray out.

Federer’s strokes are flawless but, as the last Australian finals showed, his state of mind is brittle. That, of course, goes to show that he isn’t a robot after all, his machine-like annihilation of his foes, notwithstanding.

I know at least three ladies who will dispute my assessment of Federer’s mental toughness: British Honorary Consul Moya Jackson, Sun.Star Executive Editor Michelle So and society columnist Chinggay Utzurrum. So passionate are they for Federer’s game that the latter two spent quite a fortune just to watch the Swiss play against world number one Pete Sampras in Malaysia a couple of years ago.

As for Moya, will she continue to cheer for her idol, arguing that what is one more year for a country that has waited seven and half decades to produce a Grand Slam men’s singles champion? Or will she declare that her loyalty to Federer ends where her loyalty to the British Empire begins?

Moya, Michelle and Chinggay will be glued to Star Sports from the time the coin is tossed up to the time the checks are handed to the winners in Melbourne today. So will I. I know that Murray can win because sometimes the good guys win. If he loses? Well, at least I’ll be spared the agony of watching a grown man bawl like a child and melt the hearts of three lovely lady friends.

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)