Andy Murray struggles in serious practice meeting against Novak Djokovic ahead of the Australian Open
- Match was played under full conditions with a crowd, umpire and linespeople
- The full-on session offered scant encouragement ahead of the draw later in day
- Novak Djokovic was winning 6-1, 4-1 when their allotted time came to an end
Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have met four times in Australian Open finals but there appears no chance of that happening again on the evidence of their serious practice meeting on Thursday.
Playing under full match conditions with a crowd, umpire and linespeople in attendance — and a scoreboard operating — the Serb was winning 6-1, 4-1 when their allotted time on the Margaret Court Arena at Melbourne Park came to an end.
With the 31 year-old Scot awaiting the draw being made later in the day, the full-on session in early afternoon offered scant encouragement, even though he was up against the world’s best player and there is always a danger of reading too much into such sparring.
Andy Murray struggled when facing Novak Djokovic in a serious practice match on Thursday
The pair of Wimbledon winners leave the court after their full-blooded session in Melbourne
Afterwards Murray could be seen in animated conversation with his support team as the ‘match’ stopped on the minute of their booked period ending, with the players following them yet to arrive.
The crowd of around 2,000 spectators had witnessed the increasingly familiar combination of the twice Wimbledon champion moving awkwardly between points while still being able to run for the ball in rallies and often hold his own.
But in reality, despite some sporadic scrambling around the back of the court, he could not make life difficult for the world No 1, who was mainly on cruise control.
Murray’s serve, with his first delivery running at just below 50 per cent, was a particular problem and made easy pickings for such a great returner at the other end.
Murray could be seen in animated discussions with his team following the encounter
Murray could not make life difficult for the world No 1, who was mainly on cruise control
The double Olympic champion only held serve once, at 0-3 in the second set, with his other game coming when he broke from deuce at 0-3 in the opener.
The most heartening point came late in the first set when we saw a glimpse of vintage Murray, three times chasing down seemingly lost causes in the far corners of the court.
He can still hit the ball well, but his chronic hip condition looks also to be undermining his self-belief as well as his overall movement, a situation only added to by the fact that he has played so little competitive tennis in the past eighteen months. Sharp movements wide to his right still look to be an issue.
Murray should at least not be burdened by any great expectations this fortnight and probably beyond, certainly when it comes to playing against the best players – those he used to be able to regard as inferiors or equals.
The pair met ahead of the Australian Open and played in front of a crowd on Thursday
The Scot could be seen in clear discomfort during points of the match against Djokovic
Dan Evans moved into the final qualifying round at Melbourne Park when he beat Austria’s Jurij Rodionov 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, finally clinching victory on a fourth match point having served for it at 5-3 in the decider. Evans will now face Italian veteran Paolo Lorenzi.
Middlesex’s Harriet Dart put herself within one match of qualifying for the main draw when she defeated China’s Shilin Xu 7-6, 6-1, and she now meets Serbia’s world No 117 Ivana Jorovic in the final preliminary round.
British No 2 Cam Norrie saw his promising start to the year continue when he reached the semi-final of the ATP event in Auckland, the city where he spent much of his childhood, beating American Taylor Fritz 7-6, 6-3.
Murray returns a shot to Djokovic as he continues his preparations for the Australian Open