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Bollettieri: Murray can go one better than the greats and make his own little bit of tennis history

AP
Andy Murray gets ready to play at the Australian Open

No first-time winner in the Open era has then gone and won a second Slam of their career in the next event. Not Roger Federer nor  Rafa Nadal, Bjorn Borg or John McEnroe, Pete Sampras or Jimmy Connors. Nobody.

The last man to do it was Lew Hoad, back in 1956. But I think  Murray will reach the final and that he will meet Novak Djokovic there, and in that match-up of close friends born just a week apart in May, 1987, it will be a toss-up who will win.

Clearly Djokovic is a supreme competitor and has the greater number of Slam titles to his name already (five) and the greater of finals (nine). But Murray is up there and is capable of  victory if everything clicks on the day.

The searing heat will  trouble him no more than anybody else. Murray is a superbly fit athlete these days. 

He winters in my home state of Florida. He puts in the hours. In years past he has spent training blocks at my academy and I have seen up close how tremendously hard he works and how dedicated he is.

We know all about his game by now: his serve is becoming more and more reliable even while falling short of being a true standalone weapon.

His weapons are his returns of serve, which are of the highest calibre; his movement, which facilitates brilliant shot-making derived from a creative brain; and his forehand, never more blistering than when used with acceleration as Murray suddenly switches up the pace.

The one proviso I would always make is that Andy needs to avoid any complacent slip-ups as he  tackles his assignments of the first week. 

He needs to give due respect to first-round opponent Robin Haase and then probably Joao Souza and Florian Mayer in rounds two and three. But I expect him to win those matches and then Melbourne watch out! Murray can be dangerous as hell against anyone.

Expectations back home should be framed within context, of course. Those arguing that his Slam in New York makes things easy now ignore that it brings its own pressure.

That pressure becomes as much mental as physical. Djokovic made the important point recently that  a lot of players are technically  capable of playing fantastic tennis on any given day. It is those who handle the pressure at the right time who run out winners.

It can and does come down to a few crucial points in each match, and Murray has shown in the past six months, first at the Olympics and then at the US Open, that he has the Slam-winning mentality.

I do feel he will be a multiple Slam winner at some stage, whether this month, this year or soon. It is worth reiterating that in the Open era, multiple Slam winners have taken six Slams on average between their first win and their second. Federer took only two, but Nadal took four and Djokovic took 12.

With Murray, I see similarities to Andre Agassi and Ivan Lendl, if not in temperament and style then in relative late blossoming.

Agassi famously won his first Slam at Wimbledon in 1992, age 22, in his fourth Slam final. I know - I was there in his box as his coach! He waited nine Slams for his next but went on to win eight Slams.

Lendl, now Murray's coach, won his first Slam in Paris in 1984, age 24, in his fifth final. He waited six Slams for his second but also went on to win eight.

Murray was 25 when his moment arrived in September, the moment that consigned my old friend Fred Perry to the history books where his  Thirties achievements belong.

The US Open was Murray's fifth Slam final - and, believe me, there will be more.

With no Nadal in Australia, the field is slightly more open. Nadal,  I fear, will not be back before the claycourt season and questions remain over his longer-term future.

I cannot see past Djokovic in the top quarter of the draw and he should make the final.

In Murray's quarter, I think he will beat Juan Martin Del Potro to reach a semi-final, probably against Roger Federer. The dangerous young guns - Bernard Tomic and Milos Raonic - are in Federer's quarter. Late bloomer Daniel Sands of Germany has impressed recently, too.

But I feel this Slam will be going to someone already with Slam-winning experience. Isn't it wonderful that Murray is now in that elite?

 

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