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Scot makes merry ahead of hard work

Andy Murray spent part of yesterday chatting to his fans via Twitter, as good a sign as any that the Wimbledon champion is relaxed and content as he prepares to begin the new season.

Andy Murray serves to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in the UAE. Picture: AP
Andy Murray serves to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in the UAE. Picture: AP

Answering a wide variety of questions, the highlights included the 26-year-old suggesting that he never expected to win any award with the word "personality" and that his plan for new year's eve was: "to go out and get absolutely obliterated".

Of course, Murray was joking and instead will begin his 2014 ATP Tour campaign tomorrow in the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha.

It is four months since Murray made the decision to have surgery on his back, an area of his body that had troubled him, off and on, for 18 months.

During that time, of course, Murray won his first grand slam title, at the US Open, and then captured the holy grail at Wimbledon in the summer. But in the end, managing the pain became too problematic.

Thankfully, all concerned were happy with the results of the surgery and Murray looked to be moving well last week when he played two matches in the exhibition event in Abu Dhabi.

A loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga first time out was followed by a win over Stanislas Wawrinka, efforts Murray was more than happy with.

"I just need more matches like this because the intensity's a lot higher than in practice," he said.

"It was good to get two matches against top players. Everyone needs matches at this stage, especially me. It's been a perfect start and hopefully I'll get better."

As he has done for several years now, Murray spent the off-season in Miami, honing his fitness and his game under the eye of his coach, Ivan Lendl.

It is a method that has helped him reach the final of the Australian Open in three of the past four years, including 12 months ago, when he lost to Novak Djokovic.

His resolve was so strong that he chose not to return to London for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards, which he won, and Murray will hope to hit the ground running in Doha.

Having won the title in 2008 and 2009, Murray played in the Hopman Cup mixed team event in 2010 and then played, and won, the ATP event in Brisbane in each of the past two years.

Murray is seeded No.3 in Doha, behind David Ferrer and the world No.1, Rafael Nadal, who had more treatment on his knees in the off-season.

The Scot will begin his title campaign tomorrow against Mousa Shanan Zayed of Qatar, a 19-year-old wildcard ranked 2129.

Very few matches on the ATP Tour can be described as easy but Zayed has played just twice at this level, both in Doha.

In 2012, he lost 6-0, 6-0 to Britain's James Ward, while last year he won three games against Frenchman Gael Monfils.

Looking for extra practice, both Murray and Nadal will be doubling up this week, and Murray will join Serbia's Nenad Zimonjic in a first-round match today.

Nadal opens his singles account against Lukas Rosol, the Czech who beat him at Wimbledon in 2012, and may have his hands full, as he partners 45-year-old Francisco Roig, a man whose day job is to be part of the world No.1's coaching team.

Britain could yet have two men in the draw, after Dan Evans reached the final round of qualifying yesterday.

The 23-year-old, who came of age when he reached the third round of the US Open in September, takes on Taro Daniel of Japan today for a place in the main draw.

And in Brisbane, after 12 months out following treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma, Ross Hutchins makes his comeback alongside Scotland's Colin Fleming.

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