Australian Open 2017: Murray, Konta lead British challenge

By Daily Sports on January 16, 2017

Views: 2,015

 Andy Murray says it feels no different to enter the Australian Open as the world number one. A few players do now address him as 'Sir' - but that, he says, is with tongue firmly in cheek.

The challenge, though, remains as tough as ever. Murray has lost five finals in Melbourne in the past seven years, while Novak Djokovic - now the number two - has won the title six times in all.

Murray struck an important blow by beating his lifelong rival at the World Tour Finals to end 2016 at the top of the rankings; but earlier this month, the Serb hit back to win the Qatar Open in Doha and halt Murray's winning streak at 28 in a match of nearly three hours.

Murray is expecting another gruelling clash should they meet in the final here in Melbourne on 29 January.

"The way that we both play, we can't just hit through each other in one shot," the Scot said.

"It takes a few big shots to win points, so if we're playing well they tend to be long, physical matches.

"Doha was good because I was able to see how well I recovered from it: first week of the year, you can be a bit stiff and sore. I pulled up pretty well, so it was positive."

Much may depend on the energy they expend in the early rounds of the competition. The draw does not appear to leave either at a significant advantage, so at 29, Murray has as good a chance as ever of winning his first Australian Open title.

In the women's draw, there is a real opportunity for a top-20 player without a Grand Slam title to break their duck at this Australian Open. Britain's Johanna Konta is as well equipped as any.

The 25-year-old, who will be ninth in Monday's world rankings, is on a high after winning her second WTA title in Sydney on Friday, but it does mean she has had little time to rest before a challenging first week.

Her draw appears brutal (although she will not thank you for telling her, as she prefers not to look beyond the first match).

If Konta can beat 2013 Wimbledon semi-finalist Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium in the first round, she might then have to face the aggressive talent of Japanese 19-year-old Naomi Osaka in the second round and former world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the third.

Konta's decision at the end of last season to part company with coach Esteban Carril, so soon after the sudden death of her mental coach Juan Coto, was a big surprise.

The WTA's most improved player of 2016 was 150 in the world when she started working with Carril, but my understanding is the two were unable to agree financial terms for the year ahead.

It is a sign of Konta's standing in the game that she has been able to attract one of the best in the business as a replacement. Wim Fissette is just 36 - but already has a sparkling CV.

The Belgian was coach to Kim Clijsters when she won three of her Grand Slam titles, and has also coached Sabine Lisicki and Simona Halep to Grand Slam finals. A flourishing partnership with Victoria Azarenka only ended when the Belarusian announced she was taking a break from the sport because she was pregnant.

Konta and Fissette agreed to work together after a trial week at Patrick Mouratoglou's Academy in Nice in the week before Christmas. Mouratoglou, the coach of Serena Williams, rates Fissette highly.

"He's worked with some of the best players on tour so he has the experience and I think he's still fresh," he said.

"He's young, so he still has the motivation which is something very important because when you get older, a lot of guys don't want to travel that much. He's one of the best on tour, so I think it's a good pick." (

•Photo shows Novak Djokovic with Sir Murray looking

Source Daily Sports

Posted January 16, 2017


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