BRISBANE, Australia, January 8 – World number four Andy Murray laid down a marker for the Australian Open with a 65-minute demolition of Alexandr Dolgopolov in the final of the Brisbane International on Sunday.
Murray, runner-up at Melbourne Park for the past two years as he chases his first Grand Slam, showed no mercy against the number 15 from Ukraine as he cruised to the title 6-1, 6-3 in the Pat Rafter Arena.
With former great Ivan Lendl watching on for just the second time since being appointed Murray’s surprise new coach, the Scotsman’s emphatic performance got their high-profile partnership off to the perfect start.
The top seed was lethal in all departments as he dominated Dolgopolov, a player who pushed him to four close sets in the Australian Open quarter-finals last year but who took a slight groin injury into the final.
“I served pretty well again, it got close in the second set but I stayed focused,” Murray said, with the first Grand Slam of the year barely a week away.
“He started going for his shots and hit quite a few winners but I didn’t let it get to me.”
Murray broke Dolgopolov twice in the first set and did not lose a point on his first three service games to claim the opener in just 26 minutes.
He went on a run of nine consecutive games from 2-1 in the first to 4-0 in the second before the Ukrainian finally stemmed the flow by holding serve for only the second time in the match.
That signalled a slight rally from Dolgopolov, who then got a service game back and fought to make it 4-3.
But Murray held his next serve then broke Dolgopolov to love to clinch the Roy Emerson Trophy and his 22nd title on the ATP tour.
“Even though it got back to 4-3, I had game points at 4-1 and game points at 4-2 and was creating a lot of opportunities,” he said.
Murray had started the week slowly and struggled to win his first two matches, against Mikhail Kukushkin and Gilles Muller.
But he hit top gear from then on, easily accounting for Marcos Baghdatis in the quarter-finals and Bernard Tomic in the semis before his impressive display against Dolgopolov.
“I played much better the last three matches for sure,” Murray said. “I could easily have lost the second round against Muller but I managed to fight my way through and play three very good matches.
“I felt like I was moving well right at the end of the week and hopefully the next few days before Melbourne go well.”
Dolgopolov, who has been troubled by a slight groin injury he picked up in his semi-final against Gilles Simon, acknowledged he had been outplayed and apologised to the crowd for playing “boring tennis”.
“I couldn’t move very well on the right leg and it was tough to go right and push forward,” he said.
“I just tried to do my best and stay on the court because the stadium was full and you don’t want to pull out of something like that.
“But you also don’t want to get injured so it was a fine line to keep healthy and not get worse and stay out there and play some tennis.
“I did what I can and I’m happy with my week.”
Murray said he was aware his opponent was hurting.
“When someone steps on the court you’ve just got to play it like a normal match,” he said.
“My normal game style is to try and get in a lot of rallies and work my way into points. If I just stick to that it can work well if someone wants to play quick points.
“I noticed towards the end of the first set he was trying to win the points quickly.”
Murray now heads to Melbourne, where his only outing before the Australian Open will be an exhibition match at the Kooyong Classic.