Novak Djokovic is Andy Murray’s biggest obstacle to a breakthrough Australian Open title but the Scot says he’s also one of his biggest inspirations.
Murray has relocated to Melbourne ahead of the first slam of the year, changing up his preparation as he attempts to claim a third major.
In his way is Djokovic, who breezed to an early season title in the Qatar Open last week, swatting aside Rafa Nadal in the final.
Murray, a four-time Open runner-up, will be seeded No.2 in Melbourne and can only meet the all-conquering Serb in a tournament decider.
While others might see Djokovic’s form as imposing or downright terrifying, Murray says it helps him lift his game.
“What Novak is doing … last year he had an incredible year,” he said.
“Final of every tournament bar one.
“It’s been tough playing in an era with Novak, Roger (Federer) and Rafa but at the same time to have guys like that to always be trying to catch up to, to have to improve to try and beat them, it’s a huge challenge.”
The 28-year-old nominated his chief rivals – often dubbed the ‘big four’ – as his sporting inspirations, along with the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.
Laying a glove on Djokovic has become an obsession in tennis, with Murray appearing as stumped as everyone else.
“You just have to keep trying to learn, watch his matches, try and see if there’s any weaknesses there that you can capitalise on,” he said.
“Maybe he has a drop off, it’s very difficult to maintain that level for such a long period.
“That’s all you can do.”
In 2016, Murray has taken a new approach to his Melbourne Park preparations, hoping he can crack through for an elusive success.
A gut-busting 10-day Dubai training camp focussed on gym work preceded his early arrival in Australia.
Murray landed in Australia a fortnight ago to play in the Hopman Cup and he’s been sweating it out ever since.
“I got here earlier than I ever have,” he said.
“I arrived two weeks ago … to try and help a bit with acclimatisation, get over all the jet lag.”
“I was in Perth last week where it was 43 degrees one of the days we were training, 40 another day.
“I’m doing everything I can to try and win here.”
The 28-year-old said claiming the Australian Open was his biggest priority of the season; surpassing Wimbledon glory.
“My number one goal is to try and win here,” he said.
“It’d mean a lot because of how may times I’ve been close.”