Andy Murray says Novak Djokovic will struggle to maintain amazing form

The Guardian-9 years before

For a player who began the year looking to build on the solitary grand slam he won in Australia three years ago, it has been a remarkable achievement.

Assessing his friend's prospects for 2012, Murray said: "How many times have players had pretty much the best year in tennis and then repeated it next year? It doesn't happen in sports.

"Like Barcelona in football … they're the best team, but to win back-to-back Champions Leagues, even though you're the best, it's so tough, the margins are so small. A lot of things have to go your way."

Murray was an early victim of ...jokovic's annus mirabilis, the world No3 being brutally outplayed in an Australian Open final from which he took months to recover.

The defeat looked less horrible as Djokovic went on a run of 41 consecutive victories through to the French Open semi-finals, but for Murray the fact his conqueror was the Serb made it harder to take.

The pair were born a week apart, with the British No1 the elder, and their careers had taken similar paths before Djokovic's huge jump this season. They will clash again this week having been drawn in the same group for the O2 event, and Murray now sees his rival's success as a sign of encouragement.

He added: "I didn't [match up to him] in Australia. I was disappointed with that match and I had to learn from that and realise why I didn't that day. But other times I have played against him we always have a lot of long rallies, we have similar game styles and we both make a lot of returns. I feel like it is pretty even in a lot of respects. This year he has really carried it through.

"He was struggling a lot at times last year, not just losing matches but struggling with his serve. People were saying, 'Is Djokovic ever going to win another grand slam? Is he good enough to do it?'

"And it just goes to show that everyone is good enough to do it, it's just whether you can play your best tennis at the right moments and gain that confidence that he's had this year. Because no one can improve that much at this stage in our careers, it's a confidence thing."

That is a view shared by the man himself, who will go into 2012 determined to use this season as a springboard rather than a noose around his neck.

Djokovic said: "I am going to do my best to try to get as close to these results as possible. I know it's going to be a really big task but it's a new year and I think after the year I had I can only take the best out of it, be positive and be proud of what I have achieved, and that can only give me a lot of confidence for what is coming up.

"With the new position that I have, obviously I have more expectations but I am ready for it. It's always possible to get better."

Djokovic also had encouraging words for Murray, who has made obvious advances himself this year and reached at least the semi-finals at every grand slam for the first time.

"I know the difference in my game was a mental approach, a maturity on and off the court, figuring out things, how to deal with the pressure, how to play the right shots at the right moments and using the necessary experience I have gained over the years playing against Roger [Federer] and Rafa [Nadal] and Andy," Djokovic said.

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