Andy Murray ready to turn Australia form upside down
Andy Murray has lost 10 of his last 11 matches against Novak Djokovic and has been beaten by the Serb in all four of their previous meetings at the Australian Open, but Amélie Mauresmo believes her charge can put those disappointments behind him when the world's No 1 and No 2 players meet here in tomorrow's final.
"Maybe it got to him, but it didn't break him," Murray's coach said last night when asked about the Scot's record four defeats in finals in Melbourne.
"He comes back even stronger each time, believing that he can do it. He's been in the final a few times and he's really putting in a lot of effort to try to get the trophy."
Murray, who is aiming to become the only man in the Open era to win a grand slam after losing four finals at the same event, earned his chance of another crack at the title by beating Milos Raonic 4-6, 7-5, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 in a gruelling semi-final yesterday that lasted more than four hours.
The momentum was with Raonic when he won two of the first three sets, but the 25-year-old Canadian suffered a groin injury early in the fourth set which ultimately scuppered his chances.
Djokovic, who will be contesting his sixth final here and aiming to claim his sixth Australian Open title in nine years, will be the only man to have played in more Melbourne finals than Murray in the Open era.
He has beaten Murray in three of those finals (2011, 2013 and 2015) and also beat him in the semi-finals in 2012.
It will be a fifth successive grand slam final for Djokovic, whose only defeat in slam competition last year was to Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final.
"Novak does everything so well," Mauresmo said.
"His consistency is incredible and he's capable of also raising the level towards the end of grand slams, the way he's been doing it the last few times.
"Right now the biggest task in tennis is to beat him in a grand slam final, but Stan did it last year, so we have to be inspired by that."
Murray will be playing in his ninth grand slam final, while Djokovic will be playing in his 20th. The world No 1, who has won 10 grand slam titles, will have the advantage of an extra day of rest, having played his semi-final against Roger Federer on Thursday.
Although the head-to-head statistics give Djokovic a clear edge, Murray believes he can take heart from the closeness of the encounters he had with his great rival when losing to him last year in Miami, Paris and here.
Mauresmo thinks it was particularly important that Murray beat Djokovic in the final in Montreal last summer, which was the Scot's first win against the Serb since the 2013 Wimbledon final.
"That's what we're going to talk about before the match," Mauresmo said.
"I think it was really important for him to be able to win against Novak again since the Wimbledon final," she added.
Raonic said he had never been as heartbroken on court as he was at the end of last night's semi-final.
The Canadian, who had not lost a match this year, played superbly for three sets.
His serve is clearly his most potent weapon, but here he struck his groundstrokes with great power, built his rallies intelligently and volleyed with confidence.
It was only after he had to take a medical time-out early in the fourth set that he started to struggle because of an injury to an adductor muscle which increasingly affected his serve and his movement.
The world No 14, who has long been regarded as the best of the next generation of players, is normally a cool head, but when he saw the match slipping away from him after he dropped his serve in the first game of the deciding set he smashed his racket on the floor in frustration.
If it was Raonic who often set the pace in the first three sets, Murray hung in there in characteristic fashion.
The only time the world No 2 lost his serve was in a loose opening game, when he was broken to love.
"I was starting to hit the ball better in the third set," Murray said.
"I wasn't allowing him to dictate as many of the points as I was at the beginning.
"I just tried to keep going, keep making as many returns as possible, and continue to make it difficult for him.
"Eventually I was able to engage in more baseline rallies and dictate more of those points, which made him do more of the running.
"Obviously, if his injury was restricting him, I wanted to keep the rallies like that. I wanted to be the one dictating," he added.
Mauresmo admitted that Murray had been "in a bit of trouble" until Raonic's injury.
She added: "Milos has definitely improved a lot. His serve was really hard.
"Andy had a lot of trouble reading it at the beginning.
"As the match was going on he was reading it better and better, so that was really a big satisfaction.
"Andy never gives up. That's basically what happened and in the fifth set he was really able to physically and mentally get over Milos. But it was a tough one," she added.
Murray said that reaching five Australian Open finals was "a great achievement" and added: "I have a very good shot if I play my best tennis, but I need to do that for long enough to have a chance."