Murray hopes Djokovic falters at Aussie Open

Britain's tennis star Andy Murray hits a return against Alexander Zverev of Germany at the Hopman Cup tennis tournament in Perth on Jan 8, 2016.
Britain's tennis star Andy Murray hits a return against Alexander Zverev of Germany at the Hopman Cup tennis tournament in Perth on Jan 8, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

MELBOURNE • Finally clinching an elusive Australian Open crown is Andy Murray's No. 1 goal for the new year.

However, the British tennis star concedes that his hopes of success at Melbourne Park may rest on champion Novak Djokovic having an off day.

World No. 1 Djokovic holds three of the four Grand Slam crowns after a dominant 2015 and started the new season with a bang last week, thrashing Rafael Nadal in straight sets to win the Qatar Open.

An awed Nadal described Djokovic's performance in the Qatar final as "perfection" and the highlights reel has been sober viewing for the Serb's top rivals warming up in Australia.

Having lost to Djokovic in last year's final at Melbourne Park and in the 2011 and 2013 title-deciders, world No. 2 Murray is under few illusions as to the scale of the task.

FINDING THE CHINK IN HIS ARMOUR

You just have to keep trying to learn, watch his matches, try and see if there're any weaknesses there that you can capitalise on... That's all you can do.

ANDY MURRAY, on how to beat his long-time rival Novak Djokovic.

"My No. 1 goal is to try and win here," said Murray, who also lost a fourth Melbourne Park final to Roger Federer in 2010, in Melbourne yesterday.

"It'd mean a lot because of how many times I've been close.

"You just have to keep trying to learn, watch his matches, try and see if there're any weaknesses there that you can capitalise on.

"Maybe he has a drop-off, it's very difficult to maintain that level for such a long period. That's all you can do."

World No. 3 Federer, who lost to Djokovic in last year's Wimbledon and US Open finals, was also impressed by Djokovic's obliteration of 14-time Grand Slam champion Nadal in Doha.

"To some extent, it's surprising for sure," the 34-year-old said. "Maybe not so much because he's been on a roll for a while now.

"Of course, he is the favourite for the Australian Open (which starts next Monday). Plus he's played well there historically."

Another player on whom the pre-Australian Open spotlight will be fixed on this week is volatile Nick Kyrgios, with the young Australian heading the field at the Kooyong Classic, starting today.

Days after leading Australia to only its second title at the Hopman Cup in Perth, the 20-year-old has become a hot topic in the Grand Slam run-up due to his heroics on court - and his new-found good behaviour.

Kyrgios, who had frequent brushes with officialdom last season, is the top drawcard in an expanded 12-man field at Kooyong Club in Melbourne, former home of the Australian Open.

He is coming off a contentious 2015, including an infamous on-court spat with Stan Wawrinka which sparked stinging criticism from fellow players.

It led to the ATP handing him a 28-day suspended sentence that remains in effect until next month. It will be imposed if he gets in trouble on court again, something he managed to avoid in Perth.

"My game can always get better. There're always things I need to improve on. You can never be too ready, I feel, for a Grand Slam," the world No. 30 said as he prepared for the business end of the Australian tennis summer.

"I'm nervous, I'm excited. I feel like I play my best tennis on big stages. If I'm serving well and playing the right game style, I think I've got a good chance."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2016, with the headline 'Murray hopes Djokovic falters at Aussie Open'. Print Edition | Subscribe