Andy Murray in running to defend Brisbane title

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 05, 2013
Andy_murray_696d
Andy Murray is back where he kicked off his breakthrough 2012 season and his working partnership with Ivan Lendl, only one win away from successfully defending his title at the Brisbane International. The reigning Brisbane, Olympic and U.S. Open champion advanced to the final when fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori retired with an injured left knee when trailing 6-4, 2-0 in their semifinal on Saturday. Still in his way is Grigor Dimitrov, the 21-year-old Bulgarian who is starting to live up to his reputation as a star-in-the-making by reaching his first ATP Tour final with a 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5) win over 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis. Both Murray and Dimitrov have an eye on the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 14, but both are conscious of the early-season interest in a showdown between a member of the fabulous four and a player in the up-and-coming group who are determined to break the domination of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Murray and Rafael Nadal in the majors. Murray knows what is at stake Sunday, recalling his first ATP final against Federer - he lost at Bangkok in 2005 - as an opportunity to go for his shots with nothing to lose. The top four men are constantly asked about players who are capable of being in the next generation of champions. The 25-year-old Murray is now including Dimitrov on his list. ''From my point of view, I hope that there isn't people coming through because it means that I'll be one of the ones that's losing out on a spot,'' he said, only half joking. ''There are loads of guys that are very, very tough players, all with different games. ''Grigor plays with a lot of variety. He can play a lot of shots. He's one the few guys coming through that's got a single-handed backhand as well, so he uses a lot more slice than the others.'' Putting them to the test, in the regular tournaments and the more physically demanding majors, is ''when you'll find out about them,'' he said. Murray lost four Grand Slam finals, including consecutive championships at Melbourne Park in 2010 and `11, but turned that around after he started last January to work with Lendl, who lost four major finals before going on to win eight. A year on from their first practice sessions in Brisbane, Murray is a Grand Slam winner - ending that 76-year drought for British men. He was down 4-1 against No. 5-seeded Nishikori before went on a roll, winning the next seven games before the Japanese player called it quits, two games after receiving medical treatment. ''I'm playing OK. A bit up and down,'' Murray said. ''I've moved better every single match. Returning could have been better, and my groundstrokes, with more matches I'll start it hit them cleaner.'' Dimitrov, the youngest player in the top 50, has hit form quickly in 2013 with wins over second-seeded Milos Raonic, the big-serving Canadian, and seventh-seeded Jurgen Melzer en route to his first final. He raced to a 3-0 lead in eight minutes to establish the only break of the first set and then was up a break in the second before No. 38-ranked Baghdatis hit back to take the match into a third set. Baghdatis saved a breakpoint to force a tiebreaker and then was stunned when he received a time violation penalty - losing his first serve - when he was down a mini break. The ATP has modified its rules for 2013 to make it easier for chair umpires to caution players about slow play and Baghdatis had already been warned for taking too long between service points. He fought back in the tiebreaker but Dimitrov came up with a stunning backhand that ultimately turned the match. After reaching semifinals at Queen's, Bastad and Gstaad in 2012, Dimitrov switched coaches for the offseason and has been working in Sweden at an academy run by Magnus Norman, Nicklas Kulti and Mikael Tillstrom. Together, they set a target of reaching the final in the first week of the season. ''We were actually pretty serious about it, and now that it happened, I was in the locker room and my coach was like, `Well, I told you so,''' he said. ''Definitely every tournament I play of course I want to be in the final.'' His single-handed backhand and easy-looking mobility around the court have drawn comparisons with a younger Federer. That doesn't feel like a burden to Dimitrov, who says he hasn't come close to his potential. ''Weighing me down? What for? No, not at all. Total opposite. People can judge anyway, right? Again, Roger is Roger; I'm me,'' he said. ''I haven't won a title yet even though I'm in the final.'' Dimitrov said he'd concentrated on honing his physical condition in the offseason because he knows that raw talent will only get him so far. ''Of course I been showing here and there matches that I played, well, outrageous tennis, and I've had matches where I felt like, OK, I go on court and everything is on. But you have these matches four or five times a year,'' he said. ''That doesn't make you any better player. Talent doesn't win matches. ''I tried to understand all that quite early, because of course there are expectations, everyone compares you, whatever, and these kind of things. But in the end it's the good part in tennis because everything is in your hands. You got to do it. If you want to be out there, you got to go get it from the bottom.''
MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
Is Serena Williams the most important modern athlete?
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Bulls trade Jimmy Butler to Minnesota for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, No. 7 pick

Top 10 takeaways from the 2017 NBA Draft

John Calipari thinks the one-and-done system is working just fine

Luke Walton responds to LaVar Ball saying Lonzo will lead Lakers to playoffs

Report: Spurs, Cavs trade talks now include LaMarcus Aldridge

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

LaVar Ball says ‘Zeus and Jesus’ told him Lonzo would go to Lakers

Cavs are reportedly talking about a trade for Danny Green with Spurs

Kings reportedly showing major interest in Andre Drummond

WATCH: George Springer exits game after HBP

Chiefs part ways with GM John Dorsey

Oilers, Islanders swap Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome

Sports & Politics Intersect: Washington gets a rare win

The 'NBA Draft going back to school?' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Gary Payton Award for best trash talk of the year

It’s quarterback contract silly season, starting with Derek Carr

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

2017 NBA Mock Draft

Box Score 6/22: Emotion-filled Knight for Pens fans, Preds fans... and Knicks fans

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'Golden Knights will begin with a Fleury of activity' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Ricky Davis Award for most irrationally confident shooter

It's time for Satchel Paige Day in Major League Baseball

Which vets the Vegas Golden Knights should build around

Tennis News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Sports & Politics Intersect: Washington gets a rare win

The 'NBA Draft going back to school?' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Gary Payton Award for best trash talk of the year

It’s quarterback contract silly season, starting with Derek Carr

The 'Golden Knights will begin with a Fleury of activity' quiz

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Ricky Davis Award for most irrationally confident shooter

It's time for Satchel Paige Day in MLB

Which vets the Vegas Golden Knights should build around

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker