Murray says clear-thinking key on road back to top

Abu Dhabi (AFP) – Andy Murray believes he is playing with more "clarity" and has a better idea of how he needs to compete against the top players as he approaches the new season with renewed purpose and confidence.


The former world No.1, down to 134 in the rankings, had a positive weekend in Abu Dhabi, where he claimed two victories over Dan Evans and Rafael Nadal before losing to Andrey Rublev in the final of an exhibition tournament.

The 34-year-old Murray, who is attempting a comeback no player with a metal hip has ever dared to embark on, struggled to find his best form against the top players last season, but finished 2021 with some promising results, including two top-10 triumphs over Hubert Hurkacz and Jannik Sinner.

"I feel like now I'm a lot clearer in my mind about how I'm going to play and the way I'm going to go about my matches in the next year," Murray told reporters in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

"Decision-making comes from having a clear mind and clarity about the way you want to play and right now I'm quite sure on that and I believe that will help me in the important moments."

Murray missed last February's Australian Open after contracting Covid-19 and with the current surge in cases in the UK, the Scot is wary of suffering a similar fate ahead of next month's action in Melbourne.

"Obviously it's a concern," he said. "I want to try and stay safe. When I get home, I'm going to do all of my physical training at home in my house and avoid going to the national tennis centre; there's been a number of cases there the last week to 10 days."

Murray is expecting to receive a wildcard into the main draw of the Australian Open – a tournament where he has reached, and lost, five finals.

The Brit owns a strong 48-13 win-loss record at Melbourne Park but has also experienced so many near-misses Down Under.

"I kind of feel like I maybe deserve to have an Australian Open, but I never got it done in the big matches there," he conceded.

"Got close and was in good position a couple of times, but couldn't convert it, so that's something I obviously have to deal with. But my memories from Australia, in terms of how I feel about the place, I love it there."

Nadal non-committal on Australian Open

Murray, who recently parted ways with his coach of nearly six years Jamie Delgado, has yet to confirm whether he will extend his trial period with German coach Jan de Witt, who was with him in Abu Dhabi this week.

"I'm flying home this evening, will have a chat to the team, go through how the week was. I think overall it was positive," he said.

Meanwhile, Nadal leaves the UAE capital with two close defeats to Murray and Denis Shapovalov, which were his first competitive matches since August. The Spaniard is still recovering from a chronic foot injury he aggravated six months ago and is non-committal about his participation in the upcoming Australian Open.

"I need to speak with my team. Being 100 percent honest, I can't guarantee 100 percent. The idea is to go there and try my best there in Australia, that's the goal and that's my idea," revealed the 20-time major champion.

"But we need to come back, see how the body feels after these couple of days then that'll be the time to make decisions. I go day by day at this moment of my career and after all the things that I went through, I need to think very well of every movement."