Andy Murray is one tournament into a partnership with new coach Ivan Lendl and already it has netted a title.
The No. 4-ranked Murray warmed up for the Australian Open with a commanding 6-1, 6-3 win over third-seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov in the Brisbane International final.
The victory provided the ideal start to Murray’s partnership with Lendl, and the eight-time Grand Slam winner was courtside for only the second time when the 24-year-old Scot lifted the Roy Emerson Trophy.
“I’d like to thank my team … Mr. Lendl, he’s up there somewhere, hiding,” Murray said of his new coach. “It’s my first week with this new team and it was good. I really enjoyed it. Hopefully it’ll bring more success in the future.
The 24-year-old Murray’s next task is the Australian Open, where he has lost the past two finals, to be 0-3 in major finals overall — a statistic he’s desperate to improve. That’s on top of all the pressure from home to end a drought for British men at the Grand Slam tournaments dating back to 1936.
His confidence high after capturing his 22nd ATP title, Murray will spend the next week in Melbourne preparing for the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 16.
He raced through the first set against Doglopolov in 26 minutes — he didn’t lose a point on his serve until the last game, when the Ukrainian twice had breakpoint chances but was unable to convert.
The No. 4-ranked Murray won nine straight games from 1-1 in the first to take the match away from Dolgopolov, who rallied briefly by winning three in a row — including his only service break to get the second set back to 4-3.
But Murray held to regain momentum and then broke Dolgopolov’s serve for the fifth time in the match to finish it off in 65 minutes.
Murray started the week slowly, dropping the opening sets of his first two matches and complaining of aches and pains, but didn’t lose a service game in the quarterfinal and semifinal as he gradually got his match fitness back up to speed. And he didn’t show any sign of the groin strain which prematurely ended his 2011 season.
In recent season, Murray had played the Hopman Cup, the international mixed team competition in Perth, to start the Australian summer, but wanted to change into tournament mode immediately in 2012 and appeared in Brisbane for the first time.
A year on from losing the Australian Open final to Novak Djokovic, Murray thinks he’s a better contender for the title.
“I’d hope so, yeah. A year wiser. Had more experience. I’ve improved a few things in my game,” Murray said. “I still played pretty good last year in Australia. I could play great tennis again and lose in the second or third round. Equally, could win the tournament if I play my best.
“If I play well, like I did this week, I give myself a good chance.”
The 23-year-old Dolgopolov moved up to a year-end No. 15 ranking in 2011 and was aiming for his second ATP title, but was never in contention in the final.
He has now lost all three matches against Murray, including the Australian Open quarterfinals last year.
Dolgopolov strained his groin in his semifinal win over second-seeded Gilles Simon and wasn’t at his peak against Murray.
“I’d like to say sorry for some boring tennis from me today,” he told the crowd, “but that’s the best I could do.
“I wasn’t really fit and feeling good this week, but I made the final, so I’m really happy.”