Peter Fleming insists “now is the time for Andy Murray to put a marker down and prove that his shock Australian Open exit was just a blip” ahead of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
World No 1 Murray will return to action for the first time since he was sensationally knocked out of the Australian Open by serve-and-volley tactician Mischa Zverev.
The Briton had been made odds-on favourite to record a maiden success in Melbourne following Novak Djokovic’s early exit. But speedy court conditions and an inspired Zverev contrived to dash Murray’s hopes of landing a fourth Grand Slam title.
He sat out Great Britain’s 3-2 victory over Canada in the World Group first round earlier in February, but will be determined to make a winning comeback in Dubai.
“Andy Murray will be out to dominate again, which is easier said than done because once you’ve lost that edge it’s difficult to re-establish it” Fleming told Sky Sports.
“That was a shock that he lost in Australia and played a poor match to Mischa Zverev, of all the people in the last 16. I would have thought he’s the one guy that Murray could ease past because he just doesn’t have enough game. Andy likes playing against lefty’s, attacking players, and serve-and-volleyers.
“It was the perfect storm of conditions for Murray to win routinely, but he just didn’t post, so it is now going to be a challenge for him to say ‘alright, that was just a one-off and I’m still the best’.”
Fleming feels “the weight of expectation” heading to Melbourne as the new world No 1 may have played a part in Murray’s downfall.
“The fact that he was going into Australia as the world number one perhaps weighed more heavily on him than he would have liked it.
“This guy, Mischa Zverev, attacked, attacked, attacked and Andy was never quite able to relax enough and say ‘go away, you know you can’t play with me’. He never quite stood up and established his dominance. He allowed his opponent to play.”
And with Federer and Rafael Nadal turning back the clock to reach the final, could the so-called ‘big four’ be back following a long hiatus? Fleming certainly thinks so.
“Clearly, they are back,” he insisted. “Now it’s this next generation of guys who have to get back to work with [Milos] Raonic, [Kei] Nishikori, [Grigor] Dimitrov and [David] Goffin knocking on the door so those guys are the ones who have to re-up if you will and renew their challenge.”
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