Tuesday 20 March 2018

Murray on form ahead of Oz bid

Simon Briggs

If it had not been for Andy Murray's concerns over his friend Ross Hutchins, you would have expected him to go away from the Brisbane International in buoyant mood.

Absorbing the news that his fellow tennis player had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, Murray showed off his ever-more attacking mindset yesterday in his victory over Grigor Dimitrov, standing high up the court and refusing to be cowed by his opponent's extravagant shot-making.

Asked if he had been implementing some of his off-season work with Lendl, Murray replied: "It's taken time to believe that that's the right thing to do, to be aggressive. It's a change of mentality really, and that doesn't happen in a few weeks. That was what I worked on in December, and I worked on it for the majority of last year as well."

At 21, Dimitrov is superior enough to the crowd of thrusting young wannabes to be considered a potential grand slam winner of the future.

He is also highly entertaining to watch, although his popularity with male tennis fans may be dented by reports that he is dating Maria Sharapova.

His style has often been compared to that of Roger Federer, both because of his sumptuous one-handed backhand and the familiar mannerisms of his serve.

But it was his scrambling defensive work that most impressed yesterday.

Footspeed and anticipation are the X-factors of the modern game, and the Bulgarian has both. Dimitrov came out of the blocks like a ball out of a cannon.

His early barrage of 135mph serves and crunching forehands brought him 11 of the first 12 points. But Murray was unruffled as he gradually took control to register an impressive 7-6, 6-4 victory. Afterwards, he admitted his US Open victory has taken the pressure off him going into next week's Australian Open.

"I do feel more relaxed one week out from a slam than I have done previously," he said. "So I hope that's a good sign. But I won't know until I get on court if I'll be extremely nervous or not. Nerves are a good thing anyway; they show you care." Nobody could have watched Murray without seeing how deeply he does care, about his friends' fortunes as well as his own.

Elsewhere, Great Britain's Laura Robson crashed out in the first round of her final tournament before the year's opening grand slam, losing 6-4, 7-6 to eighth seed Sloane Stephens, of the US, in the Moorilla Hobart International. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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