Murray top of seeds

The yearning to acclaim a British tennis champion on home soil will start two weeks earlier this year.

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The yearning to acclaim a British tennis champion on home soil will start two weeks earlier this year as Andy Murray carries a top seeding and favourite's tag into the newly named Aegon Championships at Queen's Club - the traditional warm-up tournament and form guide for Wimbledon. Andy Roddick, twice triumphant at the West London venue and Lleyton Hewitt, four times the champion, feature in the draw but the focus will be sharply on Murray over the next week as the young Scot takes top billing in the absence of the injured Rafael Nadal.

Tim Henman, who carried the British flag so gallantly through a decade of near misses at Wimbledon, came closest to providing Queen's club with a home-bred winner, losing in three finals - two to Hewitt and once to Pete Sampras but a victory for the archetypal English gentleman would always have been regarded as a bonus in illustrious company. That is not the case with Murray who, at 22, has already surpassed Henman's career high ranking of four and has every chance of rising higher than his current third place behind Nadal and Roger Federer.

Murray is the first Briton to feature at the top of the Queen's draw in 38 stagings of the event and will be expected to prevail over a powerful field that features the French pair of Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils in prominent seeding positions along with Roddick. Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, ranked second and fourth in the world respectively are scheduled to meet in the final of this week's other main grass court event in Halle, Germany.

Federer, who has won that tournament five times, was a late withdrawal two years ago suffering from exhaustion after his Roland Garros exploits. The organisers will be hoping they do not receive a repeat message today from the Swiss maestro.