MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) - The novelty of being the first British man to win a Grand Slam title in 76 years is about to give way to the reality of being a reigning major winner.
Murray’s career-changing win at the U.S. Open in September came shortly after his breakthrough win at the London Olympics, where he avenged a painful defeat on the same court to Roger Federer at Wimbledon.
The 25-year-old Scot said it was the most intense three months of his life. He’s had time to celebrate the win and dwell on its significance, and now he is days away from his first Grand Slam event since, and at a venue where he has twice lost in the final.
“Obviously, the last few years I got close but never managed to get over the final hurdle,” he said of his four previous failures in Grand Slam finals. “So whether it was a mental thing, whether it was things in my game I needed to improve, physical things, who knows exactly.
“But now that I’ve managed to do it, I hope that when I’m in those situations again I’ll deal with them better and put less pressure on myself, which obviously will help me play better.”
Murray’s biggest obstacles to a second Grand Slam remain top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who is aiming for a third consecutive Australian Open title, and No. 2-ranked Federer, who has won four Australian titles among his 17 majors. Murray landed in the same half of the draw as Federer, meaning they could potentially meet in the semifinals.
Djokovic is in the other half and has the more favorable run to the final. In the absence of the injured Rafael Nadal, another Spaniard _ David Ferrer _ moves up to the No. 4 seeding. Ferrer has never reached a major final and would likely have to beat Djokovic, if results go according to the seedings, in the semifinals to reach that career milestone.
Serena Williams has won five Australian Open titles, more than any woman in the Open era, and with a run of 35 victories in her last 36 matches, is among the top contenders again in Melbourne. Her run includes the titles at Wimbledon, the London Olympics, the U.S. Open, the WTA Championship and the Brisbane International last week.
Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka hasn’t added to her Grand Slam collection since winning at Melbourne Park last year, when she beat Maria Sharapova in the final. And she’ll likely have to beat Williams to reach the final after both were drawn in the same half.
Not anymore. Since Lendl first joined him as coach this time last year, the pair have worked together to hone his game. Lendl lost his first four Grand Slam finals, as well, before going on to win eight majors.
“Having someone like Ivan around me as well _ he went through a similar sort of thing _ so that’s obviously helped as well,” Murray said. “He’s given me some advice on how to deal with certain things that come with winning big events.”