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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Australian Open: Andy Murray to face Djokovic in final

Andy Murray says the burden of Britain's 75-year wait for a male Grand Slam champion will not affect him in Sunday's Australian Open final.

The British number one takes on 2008 champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the Melbourne final at 0830 GMT.

It will be the Scot's third Grand Slam final and another chance to follow in the footsteps of Fred Perry's US Open victory back in 1936.

"It's more of a personal goal and personal dream of mine," said Murray.

"So that's what you need to keep in check and not get ahead of yourself. The historical thing, it's not something I have thought about that much but it's something that for me personally I want to try to win.

"I don't want to get myself so amped up that I play a stinker of a match. If you go in thinking 'no-one has won one for 60-odd years and I might never get another chance'...

"I am going to make the most of the opportunity and give 110% but I also need to make sure I am relaxed and calm on the court. I don't want to get myself too worked up."

Fifth seed Murray lost to Roger Federer in the 2008 US Open and 2010 Australian Open finals but will face a far more familiar rival this time in long-time friend Djokovic.

The finalists, born a week apart, have known each other since they were children and have trained together regularly over recent weeks as both prepared for the Australian Open at the warm-up Hopman Cup event in Perth.

They have met seven times as professionals, with Djokovic leading 4-3 overall but Murray having won the last three in straight sets, all on hard courts.

Speaking to BBC Sport on the eve of the final, Murray said: "I think when we both came on the tour, because we weren't necessarily competing for the biggest tournaments we got on well, then he started to improve a lot and I was trying to catch up.

"I lost to him quite easily a few times and it wasn't necessarily a jealousy thing but I wanted to learn from him a little, but also not wanting him to feel I was looking up to him.

"It took a little while for me to catch up to him but I think the last year-and-a-half, two years, we started to get on very well."

Djokovic, the world number three, told BBC Sport that he and Murray had dreamed in their early years about facing each other in a Grand Slam final.

"I don't think we disconnected, it's just that we had different paths," he said.

"He went to Barcelona to try and develop into a top player and I had my practice and development days in some other countries. We were growing up and we didn't catch up that often.

i think murrays the better player but its going to be very tight

"Then, the last years we started to hang out more, to see each other more often, and it's nice because we have grown up together and known each other since we were 12 or 13 years old, played many times.

"To be able to face your good friend in a Grand Slam final is interesting, it's nice, because we were dreaming of that when we were kids."

Djokovic won his only Grand Slam title to date in Melbourne three years ago when, after beating Federer in the semi-final, he faced Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final.

Sunday's final will be the first at a Grand Slam since that day not to feature either world number one Rafael Nadal or number two Federer.

"I have won here three years ago," said Djokovic.

"Maybe in some ways I'm going to have a little mental advantage over my opponent because I have won the title.

"But still he is going to be very much motivated to win his first title and he's not going to have Roger of Rafa across the net, which I'm sure is going to be a big relief for him."

The last time the two played each other competitively was in the Miami Masters final two years ago, with Murray running out a 6-2 7-5 winner, which continued a reversal of fortune after he lost their first four encounters, including a brutal 6-1 6-0 defeat at the same venue in 2007.

Both men have been in fine form in Melbourne and Murray has made it through to the final for the loss of just two sets, while Djokovic has dropped only one and defeated title holder and 16-time Grand Slam champion Federer in the semi-finals.

"In the final it's very important to serve well and take my chances when I get them," said Murray. "He's struggled a bit on his serve in the last couple of years and that's something that I'll look to try and exploit."

Since Perry's win at Flushing Meadow in 1936, Bunny Austin, John Lloyd, Greg Rusedski and Murray himself are the only others to have made a Grand Slam final.

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