Murray rewarded for fitness work with Doha victory

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The Independent Online

Andy Murray will be hard pressed to match his flying start to 2007 but the 20-year-old Scot flew to Melbourne yesterday for the Australian Open in buoyant mood. In his first tournament appearance of 2008 Murray went one better than last year when he beat Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in the Qatar Open final to claim the fourth title of his career.

After losing to Ivan Ljubicic in the Doha final 12 months ago Murray reached the fourth round of the Australian Open, retained his San Jose title and played in two Masters Series semi-finals, all in the first three months of the year. His next five months were ruined by injury, but the British No 1's return to form in the final weeks of last season carried the promise of further progress this year.

The victory in Doha will have strengthened Murray's conviction that he made the right decision in replacing Brad Gilbert as his coach during the winter and choosing to employ a rotating team of coaches and specialists instead. He worked hard on his fitness at his winter training camp in Florida, while two of his tennis coaches, Miles Maclagan and Louis Cayer, have continued to hone his game in Qatar.

"I worked really hard in the off-season, on my fitness and on my tennis," Murray said. "It's the hardest I've ever worked in my life so I'm happy it paid off this week."

Judy Murray, his mother, told BBC Radio Five Live yesterday: "Andy is quite confident in himself in terms of his physical ability and one or two of the technical changes he has made to his game. Louis in particular is very strong on the technical side of the game. He has made a couple of changes on his serve and on his forehand when he goes out to the wide ball."

Murray will complete his preparations for the Australian Open, which begins next Monday, by joining an elite eight-man field at the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne this week. Roger Federer, the world No 1, will make his first appearance at Kooyong, while there are already concerns about the fitness of Rafael Nadal, the world No 2, who had some physical problems in the latter half of 2007. The Spaniard was thrashed 6-0, 6-1 by Mikhail Youzhny in the Chennai Open final in Madras yesterday. He blamed tiredness following his four-hour semi-final victory over Carlos Moya 24 hours earlier.

"I have one week to go for the Australian Open and I'll do my best to win," he said. "I had no physical problem today, but I was feeling very tired," he said. "That is the reason I called the trainer."

Amlie Mauresmo also has fitness worries. The former world No 1 pulled out of the Sydney International yesterday with a groin strain.