Doha: Despite losing to him four times on the trot, former world No 1 Roger Federer still does not consider Andy Murray as one of his principle rivals going into the season-opening Australian Open later this month.
"The entire field in Melbourne will be my opponent, not just Andy," Federer told media after wasting a one-set advantage to lose 7-6 (6), 2-6, 2-6 to the Scotsman in the semifinal of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open late on Friday.
Federer and Murray have played each other four times in 2008 with the Scot winning three of these encounters, including the opening round of the Barclays Dubai Duty Free Men's Open in February.
Murray also won the semifinal at the ATP Masters Series in Madrid and then beat the defending champion at the year-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai.
The only instance Federer won against the Scot was in the final of the US Open to claim his only Grand Slam for 2008. "Andy is a tough player and I will be able to beat him when the big tournaments come along," Federer said, obviously referring to his lone win at the US Open.
Though an unofficial competition, Murray continued his good work into 2009 with a straight-set win against Federer at the Capitala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi last week, and followed this up with Friday's triumph here.
The first meeting between the two was when Federer won at the final of the Bangkok Open in 2005. However, Murray evened out things by bearting the top seed at the ATP Masters Series in Cincinnati in 2006.
But, the Swiss champion is looking beyond statistics as he seeks to mount a challenge to reclaim his position as the world No 1 this season.
"Losing a match does not mean a whole lot of things as everybody fights out there to win. This result is really not a reflection," Federer said.
Besides these regular losses to Murray, Federer also lost his No 1 ranking to Spain's Rafael Nadal last year, and the Swiss star feels that winning Grand Slams gives one the right to possess the title of being the world's best player.
But the Swiss feels it will be some time before he can really take over at the top of the ATP Rankings. "It took Rafa five Grand Slams to get the No 1...and Andy is yet to win a Grand Slam," Federer said.