Australian Open: Melbourne Murray's ultimate proving ground

By Russell Greaves 13 January 2017 77
Australian Open: Melbourne Murray's ultimate proving ground

There is no better tournament at which Andy Murray can underline the new power dynamic at the top of men's tennis than the Australian Open.

Murray pulled off something close to a sporting miracle in overhauling Novak Djokovic in the rankings before drawing 2016 to a close with victory over the Serbian in the ATP World Tour Finals.

But even in that most remarkable of years for the Briton, certain achievements remained out of reach. Indeed, the season begun in a manner that suggested Murray would long continue to dwell in the shadow of his nemesis, with a fifth final loss in Melbourne and a fourth at the merciless hands of Djokovic.

It would have to be, then, the most fitting of places to lay to rest any lingering doubts over who now rules the roost. A Murray triumph in Australia would cement the role reversal, but there is no other grand slam at which Djokovic has been so commanding.

His six Australian Open titles are unsurpassed, with five of those having been claimed in the last six years, boosting his win percentage at the event to 90.

Melbourne is Djokovic's domain and he has conceded only two sets to Murray in their four Rod Laver Arena finals.

He also laid down an early marker in 2017, fending off a resurgent Murray to prevail in the Qatar Open final after his opponent had threatened to beat him for the first time after losing the opening set.

It was another classic match to add to the pair's incredible head-to-head history, which now weighs even more heavily in Djokovic's favour, the younger player – by only a week, because even in birth the gap between the two was minimal – leading 25-11.

That fact and his far superior tally of slam titles - Djokovic boasting 12 to Murray's three - means there are those who remain unconvinced that the current number one is indeed the world's best player.

So Melbourne will provide the proving ground for Murray, whose evident technical brilliance now has the fuel of the self-belief that was so apparent in his 28-match winning streak.

But if his challenge should again come up short in the year's first grand slam, and Djokovic should reign supreme again, the power would shift all too quickly back to the once so dominant Serbian.

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Russell Greaves