Murray quick off the mark as top five place beckons

Andy Murray, who hopes to emulate his friend Novak Djokovic by climbing into the world's top five this year, earned some extra New Year's day celebrations by racing through his opening match of the Qatar Open in little more than an hour.

The third-seeded Murray beat Olivier Rochus 6-0, 6-2 with a display which suggested he is gaining both in service power and in his liking for taking the initiative earlier in the rally, both of which threatened to turn the match into a whitewash.

It was not until the 11th game that Rochus won one, and even then he was twice within two points of going 0-5 down before he did it.

It sparked a mini-revival, with the cornered underdog letting rip some snarling drives and pursuing a policy of greater risk-taking which got him five times within a point of 3-4.

But it only delayed what had seemed inevitable from mid-way through the first set and Murray finished looking self-possessed and pleased with his general assertiveness.

This may partly be the result of the team of coaches and trainers he has just put together to take the place of Brad Gilbert, the high-profile American coach from whom the Scot split two months ago.

"It's difficult to travel for a long period with people if you are not getting on with them," Murray said. "With Miles [Maclagan, his coach here] I'm getting on good, but that's not the most important thing to have a buddy with you.

"You need someone who's working hard and is going to tell you if you are doing something wrong, rather than telling you that you know everything is going well every day. If you are only putting in 50-60 per cent effort that's not what I wanted.

"I think Miles when he was playing was a pretty hard worker himself and his game-style kind of showed that."

Murray imposed himself fiercely at the start of the match, attacking Rochus's second serve and delivering three service winners in the game which consolidated the break.

It was followed by two aces in Murray's next service game and by two more strident winning first deliveries as he closed out the first set in only 25 minutes. After that he had Rochus over-stretching to keep in contention. The unseeded player delivered three double faults to go a break down immediately in the second set, and then began to over-hit more from the baseline too.

He looked very dispirited after failing to win his serve for a fifth time in a game of three deuces, and it was to his credit that he managed to find some raking drives to make a contest of it in the final 15 minutes.

The shot which more than anything prevented a revival was when Rochus had a chance to drive the ball, inside the service box, past his opponent to reach 3-4, only for Murray to find the anticipation and the reflexes to move the right way and make a point blank winning volley.

Shortly afterwards Murray was departing in triumph, with a second round match in prospect against Rainer Schuttler, the former world No 4 from Germany, who beat Andrei Pavel, the former top- 20 Romanian, 1-6, 6-2, 6-0.

* Andy Murray's rival and friend, the Spanish world No 2 Rafael Nadal, overcame late resistance to reach the second round of the Chennai Open in India yesterday, but finally defeated Mathieu Montcourt 6-2, 6-4 after the tenacious French baseliner broke his serve and engaged him in long rallies in the final stages.

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