Murray confidence sky high despite final hurdle failures
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Losing five Melbourne Park finals would leave many believing they were destined to never win the Australian Open title but world number one Andy Murray remains confident that this could be the year he lays his demons to rest.
Murray after all, has solid form on the blue hardcourts in Melbourne, where he is arguably the second-most consistent man at the tournament this decade -- after six-times champion Novak Djokovic.
The Briton has appeared in five finals at the venue since 2010, the same as Djokovic. Unfortunately for Murray, the Serb has won all five of his, including four against the Scot.
The 29-year-old Murray's confidence, however, has been boosted by his run of form in the second half of last year when he clinched his second Wimbledon title and Olympic gold medal.
He also finished the year as world number one for the first time, having defeated Djokovic in the ATP Tour World finals in London.
"I obviously feel pretty confident after the way that last season finished," Murray told reporters on Saturday ahead of his first round clash with Ukraine's Illya Marchenko. "I do love it here. I love the conditions.
"I have played really well here over the years, and just haven't managed to obviously get over the final hurdle.
"But, yeah, I think I'm in a decent position, for sure, to do it. I think I have a chance to win here. Obviously nothing's guaranteed.
"But why not? I'm playing well. Practice has been good. I feel healthy. I'll give it a good shot."
Apart from winning the title for the first time and probably holding onto the top ranking, Murray has an added incentive this year after admitting his mind was elsewhere during last year's final.
His wife Kim was pregnant with their first child, while his father-in-law Nigel Sears, who was coaching Ana Ivanovic, collapsed in the stands during the Serb's third round match and was taken to hospital.
Murray left just hours after the final, with his wife giving birth about a week afterwards.
"It was a tough tournament. Obviously the situation with Kim and the baby coming was tough," he added.
"Then with what happened with Nigel made it really awkward because there was times where I was thinking... 'I want to go home', but then I'm not just going to leave whilst my father-in-law is also in hospital.
"It was tough, and certainly not a position I would want to put myself in again, or my wife, or any of my family really."
(Writing by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O'Brien)