INTERVIEW Murray's coach is looking for the Scot to show inner strength and build on a fantastic year with another major, writes Simon Cambers
With Ivan Lendl around, there has never really been any danger of Andy Murray resting on his laurels but, just in case, the Scot's coach issued a warning yesterday that his US Open win will not count for much in the eyes of his major rivals.
Murray goes into the Australian Open full of confidence after another strong training block under his belt in the off-season, chasing back-to-back grand slam titles after his stunning US Open success in September.
The Scot was drawn in the same half as Roger Federer, meaning he may have to beat the Swiss and world No.1 Novak Djokovic if he is to become the first man in the Open era to follow up his first grand slam title by immediately winning another.
Even Federer took two grand slam events to do it while Djokovic took 12. No wonder, then, that Lendl believes the top two will not look at Murray any differently, just because he is now a grand slam champion.
"I think [the effect] is overrated," Lendl said yesterday. "It may be worth a point here or there with lesser players but I promise you it makes no difference with the top guys. That's what it was like for me. It helps you because of you but not because of what they are going to do. They have won a lot, they have been there, seen it and done it, they are very experienced.
"When you win the first one you know how it feels in certain situations, what it takes, so you have gained that experience.
"But they have more of it. Roger and Novak have more of those experiences than Andy does at this stage."
Djokovic, looking rested and fit, was present for the draw with women's champion Victoria Azarenka. Both champions seemed relaxed and confident, especially Djokovic, who is trying to become the first man in the Open era to win the Australian title in three consecutive years.
"I'm feeling great and I'm looking forward to contesting the first grand slam of the year," the Serb said. "Everyone starts at the same place and we all start equal, but I'm feeling really good."
Murray beat both Djokovic and Federer to win the Olympics in August and then edged out the Serb again in the final of the US Open to become the first British man since Fred Perry to win a grand slam singles title.
But Lendl, ever the perfectionist, said it was crucial Murray did not become complacent, not that he expects him to. "Obviously, it was a fantastic year for Andy but I always look for more," Lendl said. "That's how you get better, by looking for more. The moment you get satisfied is when the dangers come. I know he wants to look for more, too."
One of the things Murray said after New York was that it meant he could hold his head high, that he now truly believed he deserved to be a champion, but Lendl said the belief should come from within.
"If you do your best in preparation and the matches I don't see one reason, not even a small one, why you shouldn't be proud of yourself and hold your head up high," he said. "It may change the people's perception of someone by winning but I will quote my golfing hero Ben Hogan who said: 'Life is too short to be walking around explaining yourself to people'. Therefore it is really important how you feel about yourself.
"An example is the semis here last year. There was no reason for Andy to have his head down after that. Zero. And I told him that. It was the same after Wimbledon this year. There was no reason to hang his head. And because he didn't, he won the Olympics. If his head was down he wouldn't have won."
Murray will have to wait until Tuesday to get his campaign under way, taking on the dangerous Dutchman Robin Haase, a man who beat him in Rotterdam in 2008 and who led him by two sets in the US Open in 2011 before Murray hit back to win in five.
Dangers lurk ahead in the form of Frenchman Gilles Simon and Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro or Marin Cilic of Croatia, before a likely semi-final against Federer and then Djokovic in the final.
Defending champion Djokovic, who beat Murray to win in 2011 and Rafa Nadal in 2012, is the favourite to make it three in a row and will benefit from not having Murray in his half of the draw.
But Federer may do well to make it to the semi-finals as the 17-times grand slam winner has both Bernard Tomic of Australia and Milos Raonic of Croatia in his quarter, two of the rising stars on the men's Tour.
His mother, Judy, is here to support her younger son [and her elder, Jamie, in the doubles events] and speaking at a coaches' conference yesterday, she explained the changes she had seen since Lendl came on board. "The thing that has impressed me most since Andy started working with Ivan is the focus, it's absolutely massive," she said. "You see it with Djokovic, Rafa [Nadal] and Federer; the eyes are on the goal – we're going to do absolutely everything we have to do to get there. I think it comes with maturity. Sometimes you just have to wait until a player's ready in their mind to do it."