Murray bullish over Slam prospects
World No 4 claims he is in the best shape of his career ahead of Australian Open
Andy Murray has grown accustomed to starting his year with a flourish but the 22-year-old Scot reckons he has never been in better shape going into the Australian Open. Murray believes he can win the year's first Grand Slam tournament, which begins in Melbourne in nine days' time, if can sustain the form he has show in the opening week of the season.
The world No 4 changed his early-season plans this year, skipping the Qatar Open, which he won in 2008 and 2009, in favour of representing Britain alongside Laura Robson at the Hopman Cup in Perth. He secured his third successive singles victory of the week yesterday, crushing Igor Andreev, the world No 35, 6-1, 6-0 with his best display so far.
Robson had earlier lost to Elena Dementieva, but the 15-year-old returned to partner Murray to a deciding 6-4, 6-7, 10-6 victory over the Russians in the mixed doubles, which earned a place in today's final against Spain's Tommy Robredo and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.
''If I play like that then I can win Australia for sure,'' Murray said of his win over Andreev. ''In terms of the way I've been striking the ball and moving and playing well up at the net and taking chances, that's probably the best I've played at the start of the year. Sometimes you play two, three matches like that a year – and fortunately one of them was today. Hopefully I've got a couple more in the Aussie Open.''
Murray, who was on court for barely three hours in his three singles matches in the round-robin phase, was also unbeaten in the mixed doubles. He needed to be as Robson lost all three of her singles matches, though the world No403 has played well all week considering her age. She has also played a big part in the doubles victories and has never looked over-awed in such elite company.
Dementieva, the world No 5, was the highest-ranked opponent Robson has ever met and did not have things all her own way in a 6-4, 6-0 victory. The 2008 junior Wimbledon champion recovered from two early service breaks to level the first set at 4-4. ''She's playing unbelievably well for 15 years old,'' Dementieva said afterwards. ''I was very impressed with her.''
Roger Federer's goal of winning more tournaments than in the previous two years got off to an inauspicious start in the Qatar Open when he was beaten 6-4, 6-4 by Russia's Nikolay Davydenko in the semi-finals in Doha. Having beaten Davydenko in their first 12 meetings, Federer has now lost to the ATP World Tour Finals champion twice in the space of three months. In today's final Davydenko will play Rafael Nadal, who beat Serbia's Viktor Troicki 6-1, 6-3.
Justine Henin, playing her first tournament for 20 months after coming out of retirement, recorded her best win to date when she crushed Ana Ivanovic 6-3, 6-2 in just over an hour at the Brisbane International to set up a final meeting with her fellow Belgian comeback queen, Kim Clijsters, who beat Germany's Andrea Petkovic 6-4, 6-2.
''There is so much respect between the two of us,'' Henin said as she looked forward to today's final. ''I know sometimes people would love to hear there have been problems between us, but that's not the case.
''We are so different but we have good memories. When we were younger we were travelling a lot together, but after that we grew up differently and went in different directions.''
Andy Roddick beat Richard Gasquet 6-3, 7-6 in the men's semi-finals in Brisbane and revealed afterwards that he would not be playing in the Davis Cup this year. The American has had knee problems and has been advised to cut down on the number of times he changes court surfaces.
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