Murray returns to the spotlight to prepare for Australia

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The Independent Online

It is only six weeks since Roger Federer brought down the curtain on the 2007 season by winning the Tennis Masters Cup but a new campaign is already under way. The Australian Open, the year's first Grand Slam event, starts in a fortnight's time and many of the world's leading players are getting their first taste of competitive action this week.

Andy Murray will be cutting down on his eventual journey Down Under by competing at the Qatar Open. The British No 1, who will round off his preparations by playing in an exhibition event in Melbourne next week, got 2007 off to a flying start by reaching the final in Doha but will be hard pressed to repeat that performance. He is in the same half of the draw as Nikolay Davydenko, the No 1 seed, and Belgium's Olivier Rochus is Murray's first-round opponent.

This will be the Scot's first public outing since his parting of the ways with his coach, Brad Gilbert, and his subsequent decision to work with a team of experts. Among those who have been working with Murray in Florida during his winter training have been Miles Maclagan, the former British Davis Cup player, and two new fitness trainers, Matt Little and Jez Green.

Murray will also play in the doubles in Doha, alongside Britain's Ross Hutchins. In the first round they face the top seeds, Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic. Meanwhile Murray's brother, Jamie, teams up with his regular new partner, Max Mirnyi, to face the No 3 seeds, Frantisek Cermak and Lukas Dlouhy.

Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal goes straight into action at the Chennai Open in India.

Serena Williams, the Australian Open champion, and Jelena Jankovic begin their campaigns at the Hopman Cup mixed team event in Perth, Nicole Vaidisova and Nadia Petrova head the field on the Australian Gold Coast and Lindsay Davenport, returning to the circuit after having a baby six months ago, will be the main attraction in Auckland.