Three grand slams, two different partners and three finals: surely Jamie Murray deserves to leave Melbourne with a major trophy under his arm.
Murray and his new sidekick, Bruno Soares, sprinted into the Australian Open final yesterday, dismissing Adrian Mannarino and Lucas Pouille 6-3, 6-1 in a brisk 56 minutes. They made it look so easy but, then again, from the moment they started playing together at the start of the year, their games clicked and they have lost only once in 12 matches.
Winning the title in Sydney the week before the Open started gave their confidence a boost and, once they got to work at Melbourne Park, they dropped just the one set on their way to the final.
“You never know exactly how a new partnership is going to work out,” Murray said. “But I think from our first match in Doha at the start of the year, we had good vibes on the court together. I felt comfortable, knew what he was trying to do on the court, and he’s really good at trying to set me up to do what I can do best up at the net. It’s been going good ever since. Three weeks later we find ourselves in the final. It’s a great achievement for us, but we want to go one step further.”
Murray led the British charge yesterday, opening proceedings on the Rod Laver Arena and getting Britain’s first win on the board. With his brother, Andy, and Johanna Konta both reaching the semi-finals of the singles, he was revelling in the British success thus far. And even if Konta could not get past Angelique Kerber yesterday, he was still hugely impressed by what she had achieved.
“It has been incredible,” he said. “Obviously for Andy to get into the semi-final, I guess people are used to that because that is what he has been doing for so many years. But for Jo to be in the semis is an incredible achievement.
“She deserves it all because she works really hard and it is not like she has come through this draw beating easy opponents and everything has opened up for her.
“Of course, she had a great opportunity in the last match but she earned that by winning her four previous matches. It’s a lot of pressure to deal with and she obviously handled it brilliantly.”
Murray is only the second British man to reach the Australian Open final in the Open Era. Jeremy Bates, partnered by Peter Lundgren, finished as runner-up in 1988 but he did not do it with the wealth of doubles experience behind him that the Scot has. Ranked No 7 in the world, his consistency at grand slam level, reaching the Wimbledon and US Open finals last summer, has given him a new confidence and he goes into tomorrow’s final with no fear, just a hunger to win. Winning the Davis Cup with his brother helped a bit with that, too.
“I think I know what to expect,” Murray said. “Obviously I came up on the wrong side the last two times I was in the final but it wasn’t like I played bad matches or anything like that. I fully trust myself that I can perform in those matches. I believe Bruno can as well. I think the kind of mentality we’ve got will bode well, the kind of chemistry that we seem to have struck up these last couple of weeks will bode well for us.”
Should Murray get a little anxious on court, Soares, the laid-back Brazilian, can calm him down.
Should Soares’s predominantly back court game need a little help, Murray is on hand to work his magic at the net. But now they face the wily old campaigners Daniel Nestor and Radek Stepanek who between them have a combined age of 80.
“Those guys have been at the top of the game for longer than maybe I’ve been alive,” Murray said. “They’ve won Grand Slams and Masters Series, everything there is to win. They’ll obviously come into the match with a lot of experience. We know it will be a really difficult match but I’m hoping it’s difficult for them too.”