Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Tennis

Australian Open: Andy Murray has plan to stop Novak Djokovic

By Tom Allnutt

Andy Murray admits he has been plotting ways to bring down Novak Djokovic ahead of the start of the Australian Open. Murray has lost four finals already in Melbourne and three of those came at the hands of the Serb, who is now gunning for his sixth success at the tournament.

Djokovic has dominated his recent rivalry with Murray, winning 10 of their last 11 matches and beating the Scot at both the Australian and French Opens last year.

Murray, who opens his campaign against Alexander Zverev tomorrow, is not alone. Rafael Nadal managed just three games against the World No.1 in Doha last week, while Roger Federer has lost all of their last three match-ups in Grand Slams.

It means Djokovic begins 2016 as the man to beat and Murray admits much of his off-season was spent thinking up ways to overcome his toughest foe.

"I think that's always the case in the off-season," Murray said. "This off-season, maybe a little bit more.

"But it's not just him you have to win against. Roger last year, I didn't have a good record against him either.

"Yes, in practices there's things you'd look to do for matches against them, but also it's about looking at matches that you've played against them and understanding tactics. In practice, you're always trying to improve your overall game. It's about looking at the videos of the matches and going, 'Oh, I could improve here'.

"It's not just for against them, it's against all the other players as well."

Murray plans to take February off for the birth of his first child so while other players were recuperating at the end of last year, he spent a fortnight training in Dubai.

The World No.2 should be finely-tuned for Zverev, the 18-year-old from Germany.

"It has been different. I've never finished the season this late," Murray said. "I feel prepared but it's just been different preparation."

Accompanying Murray in Dubai was Amelie Mauresmo, back in position as full-time coach following her maternity leave last year, as well as Davis Cup team-mates James Ward and Kyle Edmund.

Edmund plays World No.81 Damir Dzumhur today, hoping to build on an impressive few months in which he has climbed to 88th in the world and made his debut for Britain in the Davis Cup final.

Murray, who has become something of a mentor for the 21-year-old, thinks he has a bright future.

"Kyle has been improving all the time," Murray said.

"About 18 months or so ago he was making a few coaching changes and he had a tricky few months. Since then he's just been getting better."

Meanwhile, Djokovic believes Murray would be right to fly home for the birth of his first child - even if it leaves the Australian Open without a final. Djokovic and Murray can only meet at the last stage in Melbourne but that remains a distinct possibility given three of the last five finals here have featured the pair. Murray, however, has reiterated his intention to quit the tournament, regardless of the stage, if his wife Kim goes into labour earlier than expected.

That could, in theory, hand Djokovic the awkward honour of a free pass to the title but the Serb understands Murray's stance, having welcomed his own first child Stefan in October 2014.

"Of course I support and I agree with his decision. I would do the same," Djokovic said.

"I became a father almost 15 months ago. I understand the position that he's in. I was not in the Grand Slam. I was still kind of in a dilemma whether my wife would go into labour or not. I was actually in China. It was 2014. I didn't know whether it was going to happen or not. I was ready to pack and go.

"Again, it's a very sensitive subject to talk about. It's very individual. You have got to respect the decision of an individual, especially of somebody in his position. Of course, he's one of the favourites to win this trophy. He's been playing really well last season. But he understands there are some other priorities in life. I'm glad he's thinking that way. I wish his wife and him all the best."

Djokovic is bidding to win his sixth Australian Open title and 11th Grand Slam overall but first he must negotiate a tricky opener against Hyeon Chung today, a promising 19-year-old from South Korea.

"He's one of the rising stars of the tennis world," Djokovic said. "I haven't seen him play too much. I know that he's a tall fellow. He hits pretty solid from the back of the court. He doesn't have maybe as powerful of a serve as you would expect for his height. But I'm going to, of course, do a little bit more analysis."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph