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Tennis: Andy Murray to start 2013 with a bang in Australia

Can Murray make 2013 a year to remember?

"With Rafael Nadal withdrawing injured, and doubts over the level of Roger Federer’s preparation, it’s not surprising that Novak Djokovic is 2.245/4 favourite to win in Melbourne. But Murray at 4.77/2 must be a live contender, and the belief from that epic US Open final will give him an important mental edge."

After breaking his Grand Slam duck in 2012, Andy Murray starts the new tennis season in confident mood and Ralph Ellis is expecting another successful year for the Scot, starting in Australia this week

Maybe I'm a bad loser, but there's been a question bugging me ever since the Sports Personality of the Year show. If it's decided on a live phone vote, how did they know they needed the third placed trophy in Miami for Andy Murray?

OK, so I laid the Scot for the top three in the SPOTY betting, which explains being bitter. But a look round Twitter and other sites suggest I'm not the only one to ask the question. And so far there doesn't seem to have been any sort of answer from the BBC.

Whatever. Life's too short, etc. And it's my own fault because after his epic US Open win I did say I wouldn't bet against Murray at anything ever again. In fact I think I'm going to go the whole hog and back him first for this week's Brisbane International and then for the Australian Open itself.

Murray is around 1.68/13 to collect the trophy in Brisbane and, looking at the strength of the field, that is decent value.

He starts in the early hours of tomorrow with a second round contest over Aussie John Millman. The 23-year-old won't be a pushover - he beat Alex Bogomolov and Donald Young in qualifying - so it should be the perfect first match; difficult enough for a work-out, but easily winnable.

I've liked Murray's attitude to his success in 2012. The very fact he was in Miami when the SPOTY awards were on spoke volumes for his hunger to do more. He refused to compromise on his annual pre-season fitness training regime, and that says he'll arrive in Australia in the right condition to compete.

He's also very sensibly stayed away from any sort of squabble over the New Year's Honours list. An OBE seemed pretty poor return for ending 76 years of waiting for a British man to win a Grand Slam, especially when he had an Olympic Gold medal thrown in.

The fact he was also the first home player to reach a men's Wimbledon final since 1938 seems to have been completely forgotten. As achievements go they surely matched what Sir Bradley Wiggins did.

Murray's answer is "you need to do a lot for a long time to deserve an honour like that", and it's good to know that coach Ivan Lendl is mapping out his plan to achieve just that. This year there will be more focus on Masters level tournaments as well as the Grand Slams, backing up what I've always said, that the Scot has to be more focused on winning all year round to keep himself on a roll from one tournament to the next.

With Rafael Nadal withdrawing injured, and doubts over the level of Roger Federer's preparation, it's not surprising that Novak Djokovic is 2.245/4 favourite to win in Melbourne. But Murray at 4.77/2 must be a live contender, and the belief from that epic US Open final will give him an important mental edge.

I think after that breakthrough it could be Murray's year, and in the Murray Grand Slam totals market I'll be laying him for No Grand Slam wins at 2.166/5 with confidence.

Then at the end of the year we won't have to question how the Beeb got the big SPOTY trophy out to Miami, because he will be the only contender.

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02 January 2013

Australian Open

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