Gilles Muller’s first ATP title at the Sydney International in Sydney on Saturday night may well be a good omen for Andy Murray coming into the 2017 Australian Open.
Luxembourg’s flag-bearer at last year’s Rio Olympics finally won his maiden title in his sixth finals appearance. With the win he also sheds the unwelcome title of being the highest-ranked male to not hold an ATP title.
The newly-crowned world number one, Briton Andy Murray, is also seeking to break a hoodoo of five in Melbourne. Murray has been a finalist in here on five occasions in 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016.
Things certainly look promising for him coming into the first major of the year.
Speaking on Saturday he said, “I obviously feel pretty confident after the way that last season finished. I do love it here. I love the conditions. I have played really well here over the years, and just haven’t managed to obviously get over the final hurdle.
“I think I have a chance to win here. Obviously nothing’s guaranteed. I’m playing well. Practice has been good. I feel healthy. I’ll give it a good shot.”
Although Murray did stumble in Doha last week in the final against nemesis Novak Djokovic, he had a stellar final half of 2016.
After winning gold in Rio he won in Beijing and Vienna as well as two Masters 1000 events in Shanghai and Paris, finishing the year by winning the ATP World Tour Finals in London and securing the number one ranking.
The Scot goes into today’s Australian Open with a reasonably promising draw.
He isn’t scheduled to meet his first seeded player until the third round at the earliest, where he potentially could meet American Sam Querry, the number 31 seed.
Of course, this isn’t to say that an upset cannot happen. Obviously, in sport anything is possible, but although he isn’t in the qualifier nirvana of the draw that Roger Federer finds himself in, he certainly isn’t facing a dangerous first round opponent like Verdasco, who will meet Djokovic first up.
On paper, the number one seed should navigate the opening rounds well.
But the problem with getting too excited about draws is that we tend to conveniently forget the whole point of the seeding system. The top eight should meet each other and it will be at this pointy end of the tournament that the real battle begins.
The question then becomes, can Murray finally get past the final hurdle in the shape of former number one, Novak Djokovic?
It isn’t often that winning two Grand Slams in one year is considered an average year for a player, but Djokovic has been accused of having an average 2016. However, too many have forgotten that he not only won last year’s Australian Open, he also won at Roland Garros, too.
And this is what makes Djokovic dangerous as long as he gets past that tricky first round.
Ruling the Serb out of contention is a foolish game and once again we may anticipate another exciting final between these two old foes on the final day of the Australian Open.
This time, however, the man lifting the trophy could well be the man from Dunblane, finally putting an end to his curse of five finals losses in Melbourne.
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