Andy Murray's Blueprint for Success at 2014 Australian Open

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Andy Murray's Blueprint for Success at 2014 Australian Open
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Three-time Australian Open finalist Andy Murray is a perennial contender at the year's first Grand Slam.

But if the world No. 4 is going to upset the likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at Melbourne Park in 2014, he'll need to play to his strengths. 

With that in mind, let's take a look at Murray's blueprint to success Down Under.

Embrace the Forehand

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With the help of his coach, Ivan Lendl, Murray has developed his forehand into one of the best in men's tennis. And when he's striking the ball confidently with his forehand, he can beat any of the top players on tour.

Unsurprisingly, Murray's monster forehand caught the attention of The Wall Street Journal's Carl Bialik during last year's Aussie Open semifinals:

Murray was authoritative in defeating Federer, hitting 62 winners to Federer’s 43. His forehand—sometimes a liability in the past—looked a bigger weapon than Federer’s own forehand, considered one of the best forehands in tennis history. Many analysts ascribed this to the influence of Ivan Lendl, who began coaching Murray before last year’s Australian Open.

In Melbourne, Murray will need to utilize his improved forehand to not only hit winners, but to jump on top of the point much sooner and overpower less physical players.

After all, Murray isn't a player who likes to come to the net all that often, so embracing his powerful forehand will allow him to have more success when counterpunching from the baseline. 

Dominate on First-Serve Points

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Although Murray will have more room for error through the early rounds of the tournament, he'll need to be superb on first-serve points as he progresses through the draw and comes across stiffer competition.

In his first-round win over Go Soeda, Murray won 33 of his 41 first-serve points (80 percent). While that number is sure to decrease against top-ranked opposition, there's no doubt Murray's off to a strong start on serve. 

Assuming his back holds up and he can stay healthy amid the scorching temperatures, there's no reason to believe he can't continue to have success on serve, per The Telegraph's Vicki Hodges:

When you haven't played for a while it makes you feel extra nervous before you come out on court. But it (his back) felt good today and hopefully I'll wake up tomorrow and won't feel any after effects. I was training in 30C (86F) in Miami for five weeks but you can't prepare for the heat and conditions like this.

Unlike that of Roger Federer or Pete Sampras, Murray's serve has never been known to get him out of trouble. Still, putting a high percentage of first serves in play and capitalizing on those points will keep him on track and allow him to apply pressure and take more risks on his returns. 

Jump on Second-Serve Return Points

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It's tough to win the Australian Open, or any major tournament, if you're unable to take advantage of your opponent's second serve. For Murray, attacking the second-serve return will be crucial.

He made mincemeat of Soeda's second serve in Round 1, winning 23 of 29 second-serve return points for the match. However, the difference in quality between the world No. 112's second serve and that of Nadal, Djokovic or Roger Federer is massive.

Therefore, Murray's mentality on the second-serve return will be vital. If he's content to sit back and work his way into the point from the baseline, he could find himself in trouble against elite players. But if he's aggressive from the outset, taking the ball early and dictating the point, he has the shot-making ability and athleticism to beat anyone. 

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