Update 3:35 pm. Leaning back with the dreary skyline behind him, Andy Murray seemed right at home in Brisbane as he cruised down the Brisbane River.
The No.1 seed looked entirely at home as he posed for photos, chatted to journalists and let out a shy smile at the well wishes over the loud speaker on the CityCat.
It’s easy to assume the world no.4—ranked eight places above second seed Gilles Simon—arrived in Brisbane expecting a five-match guarantee and a new trophy for his cabinet. But, Murray expects anything but a cruise through the tournament as he sets his sights on the Australian Open.
With three Grand Slam runner-up trophies to his name, Murray is under pressure to secure a major title to bridge the gap between him and the glory-grabbing top three—Djokovic, Nadal and Federer.
Standing at the front of a Brisbane CityCat this morning, the Scot talked determinedly about 2012, starting the year with Brisbane instead of the lucrative Middle East tournaments to kick off a business-like season.
“I’ve never been here before, but when I came last year a lot of the guys told me it was a really good facility, had many practice courts and similar conditions to Melbourne, and that was really why I decided to come,” Murray said.
Murray’s focus is set firmly on the upcoming Australian Open. Being runner-up for the past two years and hard court being his preferred surface, the opening Grand Slam seems his best chance for his maiden title, and the 24-year-old is leaving nothing to chance this year.
“In the first week of the year nothing’s ever a breeze; it’s always tough. You never know, a lot of guys can improve in the offseason and there’s always a few nerves in the first match of the year,” he said.
“You don’t quite know how you’re going to play. I got here nice and early to give myself the best chance of having a good run.”
But Murray won’t glance over Brisbane this week, a win here being his best preparation for the Australian while staying wary of the likes of former world No.2 Tommy Haas and youngsters Bernard Tomic and Ryan Harrison.
“It’s a tough draw; there’s a lot of good players here,” he said.
“I want to try and get as many matches as possible and if I can win, winning always gives you extra confidence and is a perfect start going into the Aussie Open.”
Murray is an undeniable star of the game, a passing fan noticed Murray and exclaimed “Andy Murray—that’s so cool!” But the Scot seemed completely focused on his tennis as he talked about nothing but training hard and staying strong.
Despite a small knee injury at the end of the 2011 season delaying his offseason preparation, Murray declared his training was as strong an attribute as ever coming into 2012—his seventh year on the ATP tour.
“I always work hard in the offseason—it’s been one of the things that’s made me sort of stay at the top of the game for the last three or four years,” he said.
“If you’re in bad shape and you don’t work hard and you don’t take the training periods you have seriously, it’s very difficult to play well.”
At the ripe age of 24, Murray declared it will be experience that will earn him that elusive Grand Slam title and move closer to the top three.
“I went through a lot of tough moments last year and managed to come out well from them,” he said.
“Previous years I went through some tough moments and maybe not come back from them so well, so this year I did a good job with that. I kept working hard and got stronger and I was playing very well at the end of the year before I got the injury, so I feel good.”
After the draw this morning, Murray will play his first round against Kazakhstani Mikhail Kukushkin while falling in the same half of the draw as Australian Bernard Tomic and dangerous floaters Tommy Haas and Marcos Baghdatis.