BRISBANE INTERNATIONAL Scot enjoys a perfect warm-up, writes Simon Cambers
Part one of his campaign Down Under successfully completed, Andy Murray will now begin part two, knowing the effort he puts in will go a long way towards deciding his fate at the Australian Open in Melbourne, which starts a week today.
Murray's 7-6, 6-4 victory yesterday over Grigor Dimitrov, which he dedicated to his close friend and Davis Cup team-mate Ross Hutchins – who had revealed that he is suffering from Hodgkin's lymphoma – gave him a second straight Brisbane International title, the perfect opening to 2013.
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It is a year he hopes will contain more grand slam success to follow his victory at the US Open in September.
An off-season spent in Miami with his coach Ivan Lendl appears to have left the Scot well-prepared for the gruelling conditions players can face in Australia and Murray knows every extra bit of work, even at this late stage, could pay dividends at Melbourne Park.
"Things can change in a week or in a few days, so I need to make sure I work really hard over the next week," said Murray, who will go into the Australian Open as the No.3 seed behind Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. "The next seven or eight days are going to be very important."
Having twice been a runner-up and last year reaching the semi-finals, Murray enjoys playing in Melbourne and is clearly not lacking in confidence.
"I feel more relaxed one week out of a slam than I have previously, so I hope that's a good sign," he said. "I don't know if I'll be calm or really nervous for my first match, but nerves are a good thing, it shows you care."
The 21-year-old Dimitrov, who will today move into the world's top 40 in the rankings, is prodigiously talented and when the Bulgarian took a 4-1 lead, Murray appeared to be facing a long afternoon.
But after saving a set point, he took the tie-break 7-0, then won three games from 3-4 to clinch his 25th career title.
As at the Olympics and US Open last year, he reaped the rewards of an increased willingness to attack.
The Scot said: "Today was a good example of some of the stuff I've worked on, not just in the off-season but in the past few months. He was playing very aggressively but by the end of the first set I had turned the tables and made him do the running, which wasn't always the case in the past. It's a change in mentality, really. It's taken time to believe that that's the right thing to do, to be aggressive. That's what I worked on in December and the majority of last year."
Murray may yet play an exhibition match at Kooyong, in Melbourne, this week but most of his work will be in the gym or with Lendl, who he again credited.
"He tries to keep things fairly simple and not overcomplicate things," Murray said. "That's something I struggled with at the beginning of my career, having a lot of variety and not knowing how to use it."
At 25, the Scot is probably peaking. By the end of the month, a second grand slam title could be his.
n Britain's Laura Robson lost in the first round of her final tournament before the Australian Open, beaten 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) by eighth seed Sloane Stephens in the Moorilla Hobart International.
A single break in the first game of the match was enough for Stephens to win the first set, and she led with a break at 3-1 in the second.
Robson, who at 53 is ranked 15 places below her American opponent, fought back to take the set into a tie-break, but Stephens prevailed.
The Briton had six break points in the match, including four in the first set.
British No.1 Heather Watson had withdrawn from the tournament because of injury.