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Djokovic rooting for Murray in slam quest

Few people on the circuit know Andy Murray better than Novak Djokovic so the Scot will be heartened to know that the Serb is in his corner when it comes to his hopes of breaking his grand-slam duck by winning the Australian Open over the next fortnight.

Though Djokovic, the world No.3, will be going all out to win the title for himself, of course, if it doesn’t happen for him then he would very much like it to happen for a man he considers to be a friend just as much as a rival.

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That’s not to say that Djokovic and Murray are not competitive with each other and wary of each other’s talents; as the world’s No.3 and No.5 players, it is hard for them to be anything else. Yet having been friends since they first met as 13-year-olds, Djokovic knows what drives Murray and believes that, having gone so close twice, at the US Open in 2008 and in Melbourne last year, the next time he gets an opportunity to win one of the sport’s biggest prizes, he won’t let it go.

“I definitely wish him to have it because I think he deserves it,” Djokovic said. “He has all he needs to have in order to be a grand slam champion. He’s already played two slam finals, he’s played various semi-finals and quarter-finals, he’s been winning against everyone at the top of men’s tennis.

“Definitely the next chance he has I am sure he’s going to take, because he’s been working hard and hard work will pay off, as I know from my personal experience.”

As well as Djokovic, world No.4 Robin Soderling and the small matter of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will be trying to stop Murray and Djokovic said getting the better of the world’s top two over five sets in the heat of a grand slam is the most difficult of tasks.

“He lost both finals to Federer and we all know that Federer and Nadal are incredibly strong mentally,” he said. “Even in the later stages of a grand slam when most of the players are starting to cool down physically and getting tired, it seems when you’re playing them that they take it to another level.

“They feel you are tired and getting satisfied with getting to the final or semi-final, as if it’s a big result. You still want to win but it’s not that easy to play in the later stages against them.”

The relationship between Murray and Djokovic – they are separated by just a week in age – has changed over the years. Having been very close as teenagers, they burst on to the senior Tour at virtually the same time and, as they neared the top, they played each other several times and grew apart a little. They have become close again recently and are regular practice partners again.

“I feel we are getting closer again because we grew up and this period of three, four years of being at the top of men’s tennis has kind of passed,” he said. “Okay, we are rivals, but, off the court, it doesn’t mean that we can’t have dinner or play golf or things like that.”

Murray will play Marin Cilic, the man he beat in the semi-finals in Melbourne last year, tomorrow in his last competitive match before the tournament begins, taking on the Croat in the exhibition event at Kooyong, the venue for the Australian Open until 1988.

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