Andy Murray planning early arrival in Australia
IT may not have looked like it, but Andy Murray took his first serious steps towards the Australian tennis summer with a lighthearted charity exhibition in Scotland on Wednesday.
Sporting a Tam O'Shanter, the Scottish ace clashed with a kilt-wearing Roger Federer and later spoke enthusiastically about coming Down Under early to prepare.
Murray, ranked No.1 just 12 months ago, fell out of the top 10 this week to No.16 because of his tour absence since July while he rested a hip injury.
The dual Wimbledon champion has entered the Brisbane International, which starts on December 31, for the first time since 2013.
"My plan is to do a couple of weeks (of training) in Miami and then go to Australia very early, much earlier than I have done in the past," Murray told reporters in Glasgow, where he lost a third-set tiebreak to Federer.
"Coming into the beginning of the new year, I will be at a bit of a disadvantage because I have not played matches for a long time. So, if I can go there a bit earlier to get used to the conditions, a bit sooner than some of the other players, that might help level it up a bit."
The 30-year-old insisted he would not play in the Australia Open if he was not "100 per cent fit'' for the season-opening Grand Slam.
'I hope I'm there. I've been training for a few weeks now, but you have setbacks and then things come on quite quickly as well,'' said Murray.
"I felt better than I expected today.
"I'll come back when I'm ready. I made probably a bit of mistake trying to get ready for the US Open (in August) but it was the last major of the year.''
Murray was reported to have understandably been less than convincing in his movement against Federer.
At his lowest ranking since 2008, the Scot would miss a top-four seeding, and a first-round bye, in Brisbane should two top-15 players in addition to entrants Rafael Nadal and Grigor Dimitrov join the tournament field.
"It's really encouraging that Andy comment that he felt better than expected and read of his plans to arrive early in Australia to prepare and acclimatise,'' Brisbane tournament Geoff Quinlan said.
Hip problems are difficult for tour players to fully recover from, but there was optimism in Murray's willingness while out injured to sign a promotional deal to play in Australia to start the season for each of the next three years.