Murray 'closer than ever' to major

ANDY Murray has vowed to pull out all the stops to become a grand-slam champion in 2009.

The 21-year-old world No 4 enjoyed his most successful season to date this year, winning five ATP titles and reaching the final of the US Open.

The Scot is now determined to become the first British male to land a grand slam singles crown since Fred Perry in 1936.

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"I feel like I'm much closer to winning a grand slam now than I was," said Murray. "I always dreamt of winning one, but you don't believe it until you get very close, like I did in the US Open."

Murray's maiden grand-slam final appearance helped propel him up the rankings, along with ATP Masters victories in Cincinnati and Madrid. Despite his defeat to Roger Federer at Flushing Meadows, the Dunblane-born player took heart from his performances and is convinced he can go one better next year.

"That gave me the confidence to go on the run that I have," he said. "It's made me much more motivated to work hard this off-season to give me the best chance of doing it next year. I think it's do-able, but it's going to be very hard – there's no getting away from that – but I think that I've got a chance of doing it. I'll be giving it my best shot."

Murray credited his most productive year to his controversial change of coaches. The Scot chose to work with a training team of fitness experts Jez Green and Matt Little and former Davis Cup player Miles Maclagan after parting company with American coach Brad Gilbert in November 2007.

Murray said: "The physical side has been the most important thing and, from that, my serve's been more consistent, my ground strokes have been a little bit harder and I've been able to last longer in matches."

Meanwhile, top-ranked Rafael Nadal and Jelena Jankovic were honoured yesterday as the International Tennis Federation's world champions of 2008.

Nadal, who overtook Roger Federer at the top of the men's rankings shortly after beating the Swiss in the Wimbledon final, is the first Spanish man to receive the honour.

"It has been an incredible year for me and I will never forget all that's happened," said Nadal, who also won his fourth straight French Open title in 2008, beating Federer in the final at Roland Garros for the third year in a row. "To finish the year ranked No1 was really special."

The 22-year-old Nadal also won the Olympic gold medal in Beijing and helped Spain reach the Davis Cup final, where they beat Argentina despite the absence of the injured Nadal.

Jankovic finished the year as the top-ranked women's player despite failing to win a Grand Slam title in 2008 – she lost in the US Open final to Serena Williams. But the 23-year-old Serb won more matches than any other player on tour, and claimed WTA titles in Rome, Beijing, Stuttgart and Moscow.

"I worked really hard this year and to finish No1 is where I want to be and where I want to stay," Jankovic said.