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Australian Open: Versatile Andy Murray is drawing on his entire box of tricks

By Paul Newman

Published 22/01/2016

Andy Murray of Great Britain serves in his second round match against Sam Groth of Australia during day four of the 2016 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 21, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Andy Murray of Great Britain serves in his second round match against Sam Groth of Australia during day four of the 2016 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 21, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Sam Groth

In the city where it is said you can experience four seasons in one day, Andy Murray is preparing to face his third different kind of opponent in one week here at the Australian Open.

After following up his opening win over Alexander Zverev with an impressive 6-0 6-4 6-1 victory over the big-serving Sam Groth, Murray will face a very different challenge tomorrow against Portugal's Joao Sousa.

"They're three very, very different players," Murray said. "Zverev in comparison to Sousa has a huge serve and a fantastic backhand, while Sousa doesn't serve as well but moves terrifically well and uses his forehand more. Groth is the opposite to both of them, coming forward all the time, using a lot of slice and attacking as much as possible.

"Preparation-wise, I worked on a lot of passing shots and lobs and did a lot on my return, because I knew that was going to be important against Groth.

"Although in the next round those things will still be important, I'm aware that there's going to be a lot of longer rallies and it's about being more solid and consistent from the back of the court, so this time we'll spend more time in practice working on groundstrokes."

Murray and 26-year-old Sousa, who reached the third round by beating Colombia's Santiago Giraldo, are familiar foes. They have played each other six times and this will be their third meeting here in four years.

Sousa said: "In Portugal we say the third is the one, so perhaps they are right."

The only set Murray has dropped to Sousa was in their most recent encounter at last year's French Open. However, the World No.33 believes he is playing the best tennis of his career at the moment and added: "I've been playing better and better against Andy."

Murray remembered being "in a bit of trouble" against Sousa at Roland Garros.

The World No.2 said: "He plays predominantly from the back of the court. He's very solid from the baseline. He doesn't serve so big, but he makes a lot of returns.

"He's a good mover, a good athlete. He wins. He knows how to win matches. He understands the game well and he gets the most out of his game.

"If I play well, I've got a good chance, but he's the sort of player that, if your level's not quite there, he'll make it very tough for you, as he did when I played him at the French Open."

Sousa is good friends with Rafael Nadal and spent a week in Majorca training with the Spaniard during the off-season.

"We did great work," Sousa said. "We worked very hard. It was a great week and a great level of tennis. It was a shame that Rafa lost his first-round match. We really worked well there and as his friend, of course, I feel sorry for him."

Murray's brother, Jamie, and his new partner, Bruno Soares, won their first-round match in the doubles, with one familiar face on the other side of the net.

The Scot and Brazilian beat Britain's Jonny Marray, the former Wimbledon champion, and Pakistan's Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi 6-3 6-4.

Murray, Marray, Colin Fleming, Alan MacDonald (Murray's coach) and Jamie Delgado (Gilles Müller's coach) are sharing an apartment here.

Jamie said the draw against Marray had been "unfortunate" but added: "We went out for dinner. We were laughing about it a bit, but it is just one of those things we had to deal with. It was a little bit awkward, kind of hanging there in the air, but I think we both played a decent match."

Marray said the group of British doubles players got on well and often shared accommodation, particularly at the Grand Slams.

"We've all been eating together," he said. "It's not like we're in different rooms and not talking."

Jamie, who parted company with John Peers at the end of last year, won his first title with Soares in Sydney last weekend.

"Bruno's got great returns," he said. "That's the best part of his game. He's the best returner on the doubles tour as well, or certainly up there. I never really played with a guy who's such a consistent returner before.

"So that's great for me with my skills at the net. That will give me a lot more opportunities to do some damage. And he's an experienced guy."

While Lleyton Hewitt bowed out of the tournament, two of his fellow Australians booked their places in the third round, in which they will face one another.

Bernard Tomic, the No.16 seed, beat Italy's Simone Bolelli 6-4 6-2 6-7 7-5 and will now play 26-year-old John Millman, who beat Müller 4-6 6-4 6-2 4-6 7-5.

Millman, the World No.95, had previously won only one match in a Grand Slam, at Wimbledon last summer. One other Aussie, Nick Kyrgios, is in the third round.

Belfast Telegraph

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