Novak Djokovic will have no room for sentiment for Andy Murray in the Australian Open semifinals on Friday as he attempts to repeat the tennis lesson he handed his old friend last year.
But the Serbian World No. 1 will expect a much tougher test of his credentials as the hungry Briton seeks to put last year's humbling behind him.
Murray, despite firmly establishing himself among tennis's elite, has yet to win his first Grand Slam, having lost three finals — at the 2008 U.S. Open, and the 2010 and 2011 Australian Opens.
Djokovic, 24, said he hoped he could produce the tennis he played last year in destroying the Scot, over whom he enjoys a 6-4 head-to-head record.
The Serb, who outbattled David Ferrer in a testing quarterfinal, said Murray, who is unbeaten this year under new coach Ivan Lendl, looked in good shape.
“He looks fit. He's been playing well. He's definitely very motivated to win his first Grand Slam. He's been playing the last two years in the finals here,” said Djokovic.
“But on the other hand I have been playing quite well here in the last couple of years. You know, we have to expect a great match,” he added.
Djokovic said he enjoyed seeing someone he'd grown up with performing well.
“We've been friends for a long time, always had lots of respect for him. I think it's mutual. I think our teams are getting along really well. We practise whenever we can.
“I mean, our friendship and rivalry, you can call it, goes a long time back. You know, it goes to when we were 12 in France, first tournament. We played a lot of junior events together.”
Murray believes he is now producing his best tennis on the game's biggest stages after reaching his fifth consecutive Grand Slam semifinal.
But the Scot, born within a week of Djokovic, is desperate to seal his first major. Roger Federer beat him in the 2008 U.S. Open final and again in the 2010 Australian Open title match before last year's loss to the Serb.
“It's good to see that I've been playing my best tennis at the slams because that's something the last couple of years I wanted to make sure I was doing,” said Murray. “That wasn't always the case. Good to see that's been paying off. I've been preparing the best I could for them. Thankfully the tennis has been good, as well.”
Murray said he felt a relatively untroubled path to the semifinals had left him fresh for tougher challenges ahead.
Keywords: Australian Open semi-finals