Australian Open 2015: Andy Murray fit and ready as Heather Watson shows the way

World No 6 upbeat about preparations and ignores tough draw

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The Independent Online

Not even a potential nightmare draw could dent Andy Murray’s optimism today as he prepared for the start of the Australian Open here on Monday.

Murray rarely looks beyond the first round of any draw, which was probably just as well considering the potential challenges he faces over the next fortnight. If the Scot keeps winning and all the seedings go according to plan, his last four opponents will be Grigor Dimitrov, who beat him at Wimbledon last summer, and the world’s top three players, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. His opening match will be against one of the winners from tomorrow’s final qualifying round, which featured two fellow Britons in Liam Broady and Kyle Edmund.

After a difficult 2014, during which Murray struggled to recover from back surgery, lost his coach Ivan Lendl and eventually parted company with two of the longest-serving members of his entourage, the world No 6 has begun the new year in a positive frame of mind. Amélie Mauresmo, Lendl’s replacement, has helped him return to a more attacking game style, while Matt Little, who is now in full charge of his physical preparation, has put more emphasis on speed work and less on strength-building.

“I feel like I’m getting back to where I want to be on the court again,” Murray said today. “My body feels good,  I feel fit, I’m moving well, I’m happy with the team I’ve got around me. Everything off the court is good, too.

“I feel happy and often when you feel happy you perform better. That’s the case for anyone in any job. When things at home are good and the people around you are all pulling in the same direction it’s beneficial. Hopefully that will mean some good  performances.”

Watson.jpg
Watson celebrates the win which put her in Sunday's Hobart final

He added: “I definitely haven’t moved as well at the beginning of the year as I have so far this year. It’s always difficult to know how fit I was coming into the Australian Open. I did loads of fitness work, probably too much. I trained almost every day for three months with no breaks.

“You could say I was very fit, but I was tired as well and when I was playing matches I was waking up sore and stiff. So I wasn’t necessarily match-fit, whereas now I feel in good match-shape. After I played my first match of the year  I woke up with no issues. I feel strong, balanced and I feel good.”

James Ward, the British No 2, faces a tricky opening encounter against Spain’s Fernando Verdasco, while Heather Watson, the only Briton in the main draw of the women’s singles, meets the world No 67, Tsvetana Pironkova, of Bulgaria.

Before looking ahead to Melbourne, however, Watson was facing Madison Brengle, a 24-year-old American ranked No 84 in the world, in tomorrow’s final of the Hobart International.

Watson earned her first place in a tour final for three years by recording a fifth win in succession against a higher-ranked opponent. The world No 49 beat Alison Riske, another American, 6-3, 7-5 in a match that was played in high winds and was stopped because of rain six times.

The last weather delay came with Watson serving for the match and on her third match point. On the resumption Riske levelled the score at 5-5, but the world No 42 was broken immediately, after which Watson served out for victory. “It wasn’t easy conditions for anybody, even those watching the match,” Watson said. “Instead of serving properly, it was more about trying to get the ball in the court.”

Looking ahead to next week, Watson said: “As far as preparation goes, it’s brilliant for me. I’ve got a lot of confidence from these wins, not just from that but how I’m playing. I really believe in my game at the moment and it’s showing in my tennis.”

Petra Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion, rounded off her preparations for Melbourne by beating her fellow Czech Karolina Pliskova  7-6, 7-6 to win the Sydney International title. Serbia’s Viktor Troicki, who returned to competition last July after serving a one-year ban for a drugs offence, reached the final of the men’s event by beating Gilles Müller. He meets Mikhail Kukushkin in tomorrow’s final.

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