The last seven weeks of the year will doubtless offer Andy Murray some idea of what he needs to work on in the brief off-season, once the eight-man year-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at London s O2 Arena are out of the way.
The 23-year-old will step up his search for a coach after his playing commitments are fulfilled but it appears he is already turning his focus towards next year and the Australian Open, which so nearly provided him with his first grand slam in January.
After what has been an up-and-down year, Murray has confirmed that he will begin 2011 as he did 2010 by representing Britain alongside 16-year-old Laura Robson in the Hopman Cup mixed team event in Perth, to be staged in the first week of the new year. Murray and Robson laughed and joked their way through to the final of the event, largely seen as an exhibition, earlier this year. The tournament has produced some outstanding fields in the past and 2011 is perhaps the best yet, with Novak Djokovic, Gael Monfils, Lleyton Hewitt, Serena Williams and Justine Henin all taking part.
I m looking forward to going back to the Hopman Cup, Murray said. For me, it was a good start to the year and we went pretty close to winning. I look forward to playing with Laura once again.
It is hard to remember ever seeing Murray as relaxed as he was in the more than pleasant surroundings of the Burswood Entertainment Complex. He looked genuinely to be enjoying himself and he responded by producing tennis as good as any he has shown since, including his win in Toronto in August, when he beat Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to win his only title of 2010. It was the first time that he really showed signs of the more aggressive tactics that he has been trying to incorporate into his game this year and it set him up nicely for Melbourne, where only an inspired Federer denied him in the final.
Murray may have had a few ups and downs this year, with a loss of form in April and a disappointing US Open defeat, but Perth could just inspire him to another strong run.
Tournament director Paul McNamee began his attempts to persuade Murray and Robson to return almost as soon as they had left the city nine months ago.
When Andy puts it all together, it is pretty breathtaking, McNamee said. Roger Federer s not getting any younger and I think that Andy s very much on track still, especially as he is still in the top four in the world. Andy played some of the best tennis here that he has played in the whole year.
Murray will be back on court tomorrow when he begins his title bid in the Shanghai Masters. The world No.4 is in Nadal s half of the draw and could play Radek Stepanek in his opening match.