The brief Christmas which he enjoyed back in a soggy and windswept Britain must feel like a distant memory to Andy Murray. The world No 3 has already made his first appearance of the season, in the warmth of the Middle East, and now he is preparing for his second, in the searing heat of Australia's Sunshine State of Queensland.
The temperature is forecast to rise to 32C in Brisbane on Wednesday, when Murray will play his first competitive match of the year against the winner of today's meeting between Japan's Tatsuma Ito and Australia's John Millman.
Although defeat to Janko Tipsarevic in last week's exhibition event in Abu Dhabi will be of no consequence in the long term, Murray will be hoping for a more prolonged run in his only warm-up tournament before the Australian Open, which begins in 13 days' time.
The 25-year-old Scot usually starts the year in good form and goes on to do well at the season's opening Grand Slam tournament in Melbourne, having been runner-up in 2010 and 2011 and a semi-finalist in 2012. Murray took the title in Brisbane last year and has twice won the Qatar Open in Doha in the first week of the season.
Murray is going into the new campaign in confident mood. "In the last three, four or five years there has been significant pressure in my mind, and now I feel more relaxed and relieved after winning the US Open," he said.
"I hope to take the pressure off myself and be able to play a little bit more relaxed and I hope to repeat my Grand Slam win. I don't know how I will feel going into the first round of the Australian Open, so it will be a new feeling for me. I just have to deal with it."
If Murray reaches the third round in Brisbane he is seeded to play Slovakia's Martin Klizan, who was meeting Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin today. In the semi-finals Murray could face Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov, who lost to the Scot in last year's final, or Japan's Kei Nishikori. Canada's Milos Raonic, who beat Murray in their last meeting in Tokyo three months ago, is the top seed in the other half of the draw.
Brisbane has attracted a high- quality women's field, but two of its biggest attractions went out yesterday. Australia's Sam Stosur, who so often struggles on home territory, was beaten 7-6, 7-5 by Sweden's Sofia Arvidsson, while Caroline Wozniacki, who entered last year's Australian Open as the world No 1, was beaten 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 by Kazakhstan's Ksenia Pervak.
Britain's Anne Keothavong, having successfully come through the qualifying tournament in Shenzhen in China, was beaten 6-4, 6-0 by Peng Shuai in the opening round. James Ward, making his comeback after injury, lost in the final round of qualifying in Chennai, going down 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 to India's Prakash Amritraj, the world No 551.
Novak Djokovic, who has won the Australian Open three times without playing a competitive match in the build-up, is preparing for Melbourne by playing in the Hopman Cup exhibition event in Perth.
The world No 1 beat Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-4 in his first match but was then at the centre of an injury scare after hurting his leg when autograph-hunters crowded round him and a sponsor's sign toppled over. Djokovic, who left his rackets and bag on the court before limping up the tunnel, failed to complete a television interview, though it was unclear how serious the injury was.Reuse content