Murray set to take step into unknown
Andy Murray may not know a lot about Joao Sousa, his second-round opponent at the Australian Open, but the similarities are striking.
Murray set up a clash with Sousa thanks to a straight-sets demolition of Robin Haase on Tuesday after which he admitted he only had limited knowledge of the Portuguese number one.
"I don't know too much about him," said the third seed. "I saw him play a couple of matches during the clay court season last year in Barcelona. I also saw him a little bit at the French Open. But I've never practised against him, never played against him."
Should Murray care to delve deeper into Sousa's past, he will see the two have more in common than he perhaps realised. Murray shunned football for tennis - declining an invitation to train at Rangers' School of Excellence aged 15 - while Sousa chose the same path despite a promising career at hometown club Guimaraes.
After spurning the Glasgow giants, Murray left Scotland having become frustrated at a lack of opportunity and suitable training partners and headed for Barcelona. Sousa has spent the last eight years in the Catalonian capital after also deciding the grass was greener elsewhere.
World 100 Sousa said: "It is not easy in Portugal with the (financial) crisis in Europe and also tennis is not very popular. When I was 15 it was not easy to find someone to practise with. If you want to improve you have to move so I went to Barcelona. I have been there for eight years and I am happy there."
Their careers are at different junctures currently - Murray is the US Open and Olympic champion while Sousa endures the grind of the challenger tour most weeks. But Sousa, the son of a judge, has experience of working with the game's greats.
In Barcelona, he trains at the academy run by Francis Roig, an occasional member of Rafael Nadal's backroom team, and he has hit with Nadal and Roger Federer, who he calls his idol.
He accepts, however, that rubbing shoulders with the big guns will count for little when he walks out to face Murray.
"He's one of the best players in the world. He has won the Olympics and a lot of big tournaments. He is a very solid player," said Sousa. "I don't know if he has a weakness but I will try to find it on court. I didn't see his match but he is confident, he just won easily against a great player like Robin."
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