Murray's plan for tougher Australian Open build-up

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The Independent Online

The rewards in tennis can be huge but so are the physical demands. Andy Murray returned last week from his first holiday for six years, having taken a fortnight off following the Paris Masters, completed his commitments in the Aberdeen Cup exhibition tournament yesterday and will fly on Wednesday to the United States for four weeks of hard preparation for January's Australian Open.

Murray will work in California with Brad Gilbert, his coach, and Mark Grabow, his new fitness trainer, before going on to Nick Bollettieri's academy in Florida, where he will concentrate on improvements to his game.

"For the first couple of weeks I'll be focusing on my fitness, maybe practising for just an hour and a half a day but doing three hours of fitness work," he said. "I need to be able to last the long matches in Australia because it's so hot over there. You have to prepare for that pretty early. Maybe I didn't do that last year."

Murray went into the Scotland v England match in Aberdeen short of practice and admitted there were times during his highly competitive 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory over Greg Rusedski on Saturday night when he had to catch his breath.

"I hadn't been expecting to play at that high a standard," he said. "Greg hadn't played too many matches either and I was really surprised at how few unforced errors there were and how well both of us served."

He added: "He was doing the things that made him one of the best players in the world, using his serve to get him out of trouble. I think I had 16 or 17 break points and until the very last game I'd only won one of them. He wasn't missing his first serve on the big points."

Murray and his elder brother, Jamie, were playing Rusedski and James Auckland in a doubles at the start of last night's session, which was due to end with another singles between the current and former British No 1s. The event also marked the return of Elena Baltacha, who showed how well she is recovering from back surgery by beating Katie O'Brien, the British No 3.

While Rusedski, now the world No 193, has given up hope of playing in the Australian Open, Alex Bogdanovic is hoping that his improved ranking will earn him direct entry to the year's first Grand Slam event.

The British No 3 should rise to around No 115 in the world after his victory over Germany's Mischa Zverev in the final of a Challenger tournament in Shrewsbury on Saturday.