'No psychological barrier in Melbourne'

World No. 1 Andy Murray has lost in five Australian Open finals - in 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016. But, ahead of the year's first Major next week, he says he will not be facing any demons in Melbourne Park.
World No. 1 Andy Murray has lost in five Australian Open finals - in 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016. But, ahead of the year's first Major next week, he says he will not be facing any demons in Melbourne Park.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LONDON • Andy Murray says he does not have a mental block when it comes to the Australian Open, despite losing in the final of the opening Grand Slam of the season five times.

The world No. 1 - whose season opened with a loss in the Qatar Open final to arch-rival Novak Djokovic - told The Times of London in an interview that he had also pondered over whether he should accept the knighthood he received in the New Year's Honours list.

But he is adamant he no longer has issues over tournaments he has yet to win.

"I don't feel like I have mental hurdles now," he said. "I just go there and give my best to win. So long as I give my best effort, I don't judge myself or feel like I've failed here or anything like that."

Murray, who had a memorable 2016, becoming Britain's first tennis No. 1 of the professional era and winning the Wimbledon and Olympic singles titles, admitted he had conferred with those closest to him over whether to accept the knighthood which he was offered in the middle of last month.

"I do feel like it's obviously a big honour to be offered that, but with that comes maybe a little bit more responsibility," said the 29-year-old.

"I'm still very young, I'm still competing and obviously don't want anything to distract me or affect my performance on the court."

He is clear, though, how he wishes to be addressed by his rivals on the circuit: "A few of the players have been chatting to me about it and asking how it works, what does it mean and what do we call you.

"Andy is fine."

Murray, whose win in the 2012 US Open was the first in a Grand Slam by a British male tennis player since Fred Perry in 1936, says another thing that has changed as he has matured is how he reacts to personal criticism.

"When you are comfortable like that with who you are, someone saying that you're boring or miserable or whatever it is, it doesn't affect you like it does when you are younger and you are still not sure of yourself," he said.

"When you are growing up in the spotlight and you don't know exactly who you are or what you're going to become, that's probably a bit more difficult."

The Scot, who says he likes to organise his schedule so he can see his daughter Sophia and wife Kim every fortnight, received a flood of congratulations when he became No. 1 but two phone messages, left by two sporting giants, in particular touched him.

"I got one from Alex Ferguson and one from Jose Mourinho," he said. "That was pretty cool. I obviously watch a lot of football and they are two of the most respected and best managers in one of the hardest sports to succeed in at the highest level. That was pretty nice."

Such is his affinity with "The Beautiful Game" that he would like to be involved in the sport when the day finally comes to put away his racket.

"I would like to do something in football," said Murray, whose grandfather Roy Erskine played for historic Scottish club Hibernian in the 1950s.

"I watch loads of it. I am into my fantasy sports a lot."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2017, with the headline ''No psychological barrier in Melbourne''. Print Edition | Subscribe