Andy Murray needs to dig deep into his reserves of self-belief to have a chance of navigating a daunting path to a first Australian Open title.
This is the view of influential coach Nick Bollettieri, who saw the sixth seed yesterday handed a tough draw for the year’s first grand slam in Melbourne.
Murray will take on a qualifier in the opening round but is seeded to meet Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov in the last 16, the man he lost to in straight sets in the Wimbledon quarter-finals last year.
Seventeen-time grand slam champion Roger Federer is Murray’s prospective quarter-final opponent for the second year running – Federer won in four sets 12 months ago – with third seed Rafael Nadal seeded to be awaiting the winner in the semi-final.
Top seed Novak Djokovic is in the other half of the draw and will be expected to reach a fourth Melbourne final in the last five years, the world No 1 winning the title three times in succession before last year’s surprise quarter-final loss to eventual champion Stanislas Wawrinka.
“I do think Andy can contend,” said 83-year-old Bollettieri, who has coached the likes of Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams in his long career.
“A lot of people don’t realise the injury he had (Murray had back surgery in September 2013); he took longer than everyone thought to recover from it because his game is built around movement. He moves really well.
“He has a good forehand and backhand and the only question mark is that second serve. It has got to be more aggressive, but I look for Andy Murray to have a big year this year.
“I spoke to him and said ‘I think you will have a good year’ and he said ‘I hope so’. I said ‘What are you talking about? You have to start telling yourself you can do these things’, and I think Andy Murray can.”
Murray thrashed Nadal 6-2 6-0 in an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi earlier this month, although that marked the Spaniard’s first competitive outing since October.
Wawrinka opens against Turkey’s Marsel Ilhan, with Djokovic drawn to face a qualifier and Nadal facing a tricky start against unpredictable Russian Mikhail Youzhny. Federer plays Yen-hsun Lu of Taiwan.