Andy Murray is looking forward to making another bid for a title that has stubbornly remained just out of reach when he returns to take part in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships next month.
The talented Scot, who recently completed an impressive run to his fourth Australian Open final, made an impact right from his very first match, writing himself into the tournament history books in 2008 by inflicting an opening round defeat on defending champion Roger Federer.
It was the first time since 2001, when unseeded Nicolas Kiefer was beaten by fifth seed Patrick Rafter, that the defending champion had been toppled in the first round. The only other time such an upset occurred was in 1999, when defending champion and top seed Alex Corretja was beaten by Andrew Ilie.
Murray that year followed up his victory with a win over Fernando Verdasco before falling in the quarter-finals to world number five Nikolay Davydenko. When Murray returned the following year he once again reached the quarter-finals, but was forced to default the match against Richard Gasquet due to a virus. Then in 2010, and ranked four in the world, he was narrowly upset in the second round by Janko Tipsarevic, going down 6-4 in the third set.
His best run at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships came when he returned in 2012 and advanced all the way to the final, beating Tomas Berdych in the quarters and then defending champion Novak Djokovic in the semis before losing to Federer in two closely contested sets.
Although he skipped the next two years, Murray loves being in Dubai and even took time to practise on the courts of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium at the turn of the year while preparing for an exhibition event in Bahrain.
“They’ve done a really good tournament” he said when he last competed here. “They look after the players really well and I get to do things which you don’t get to do at many other tournaments. I went to the Dubai Mall and went up the Burj Kalifa and I’ve had fun here seeing quite a few of the sights. The Mall is incredible. It’s absolutely massive. I’ve never seen a mall like it.”
The final few months of last season in particular were highly successful for Murray, who although failing to retain his Wimbledon crown went on to qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals in London. While some players mentally tire as the long season draws to a close, Murray was at his best as he earned titles in Shenzhen, Vienna and Valencia.
Earlier in the year he had reached the semi-finals of the French Open for the second time before falling to Rafael Nadal, as well as the semi-finals in Acapulco and Beijing, and he reached the quarter-finals of both Wimbledon and the US Open. Still, it was a challenging season.
“Last year, for me, was quite difficult,” he admitted on his website. “I was coming back from surgery at the start of the year and then I started working with a new coach, Amelie Mauresmo, just before Wimbledon. Then at the end of the season I made a few changes to my team.
“So, there were a lot of things to deal with but now, after the Christmas break, I feel good again. I can’t remember how long it’s been since I have felt this good. In terms of my mindset, I’d say a very long time.”
His partnership with Mauresmo, who won the 2002 Dubai women’s title as well as Wimbledon and the Australian Open, is going from strength to strength.
“Compared with some coaches that I’ve had, Amelie is very easygoing,” said Murray. “She’s willing to learn, she doesn’t act like she knows everything. For someone who was so successful as a player herself — she was the best in the world at what she did — she’s willing to learn and asks a lot of questions. I think that’s a very good trait to have. Having time together in the off-season has developed our relationship even further. Our communication is very good.”
Murray will need every bit of help he can draw on as he faces a terrific trio of world class opposition in Djokovic, Federer and Berdych as well as a host of other top names all intent on lifting the trophy.
“Andy Murray will come into the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships full of confidence, knowing he has already beaten his top three rivals for the title here, as well as several other contenders,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organizers. “It will be very interesting to see if his coaching association with a former Dubai champion and world number one, Amelie Mauresmo, can give him the extra boost to take him from 2012 finalist to 2015 champion.”
Tournament Director Salah Tahlak warned that, despite the confidence he gained from reaching the final of the Australian Open, Murray will not have an easy task ahead of him.
“As well as Djokovic, Federer and Berdych, others such as Mikhail Youzhny and Feliciano Lopez have excelled here and contested the final. Players such as Richard Gasquet and 2014 semi-finalist Philipp Kohlschreiber have also played well, and Ernests Gulbis, Roberto Bautista Agut and Simone Bolelli are among those also capable of threatening their top 10 opponents. It is going to be a very competitive week indeed.”
Play in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships begins with the WTA event, which takes place between 15th and 21st February and features four of the world’s top five and eight of the top 10, including world number one Serena Williams and defending champion sister Venus, French Open finalist Simona Halep, and former Dubai winners Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska. Play then continues between 23rd and 28th February with the action-packed ATP tournament.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai..
Tickets for the event are available from the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which opens from 9am to 9pm daily. Grandstand tickets can also be bought online at http://www.timeouttickets.com/. For further information about tickets, prices and the tournament visit www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.