Watch out, Novak! Murray warns Djokovic he's in for a brutal semi-final
To erase the memory of the worst night in his career, Andy Murray will summon up what he terms the 'brutal' approach of new mentor Ivan Lendl for his Australian Open semi-final showdown with Novak Djokovic.
When the two met in the final 12 months ago the British No 1 was about as fearsome as a spring lamb, and the resulting straight-sets defeat took him months to get over.
Great Scot: Murray booked a last-four date with Djokovic after beating Nishikori
What Djokovic subsequently did last season lent perspective to the outcome, and now Murray knows he has to show some Lendl-esque ruthlessness, even if it means drilling the ball at someone he regards as both rival and friend.
Of his cordial relationship with Djokovic, he said: 'You've got to put all that to one side and do whatever it takes to get that win. If that means hitting your opponent with a passing shot, like Nicolas Almagro did to Tomas Berdych this week, you have to do what you need to do.
'Ivan was brutal, there was nothing he liked more than lining up opponents at the net and thumping the ball at them. I've seen loads of YouTube clips of Lendl and my favourite is when he unloads straight at Emilio Sanchez, who I know really well. The funny thing He just started laughing while Emilio was writhing on the ground in pain.'
Bad day at the office: Djokovic cruised to last year's title with a straight-sets win over Murray in the final
Such an opportunity may or may not present itself, but there will have to be a combination of intelligence and aggression if he is to upset the Serb, whose Grand Slam form has seamlessly picked up this fortnight from his three major titles of 2011.
Bar an uncomfortable spell in the second set, there were few signs of vulnerability as Djokovic saw off David Ferrer 6-4, 7-6, 6-1 to complete a full house of the Big Four in the semi-finals, with Roger Federer facing Rafael Nadal today.
No 1: Murray will have to be at the top of his game to beat the Serbian star
Murray overcame Japan's Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 with few dramas and, while the score was overwhelming, a sober assessment is that among his peers this was easily the least impressive passage to the last four.
For the third successive match Murray faced someone coming off the back of a five-setter, and he did what was necessary to reach what is a hugely admirable seventh Grand Slam semi-final from his last nine.
Only two of those seven have been won – versus Ferrer and Marin Cilic here – and now comes arguably the toughest of all, bar his French Open appointment last year with Nadal.
Djokovic, with his capacity to turn defensive scrambles into winning positions in the blink of an eye, is currently the undisputed world No 1. The 24-year-old Serb, from whom he was born a week apart and has competed against for half his life, is better than 12 months ago, but so is Murray.
'We'll see if the improving I've done has been enough,' said the Scot. 'I won't be going into it thinking of last year's final.'
Murray insists the Lendl influence is so far limited, given that they have been together for less than three weeks.
'The reason I employed him was to give me a bit of extra edge, a bit more experience,' said Murray.
'I don't think this week is when we will see that much difference, it will be down the line, maybe at Wimbledon and the US Open.'
That sounded a bit like an exercise in expectation management, hardly essential as an impartial observer would make Djokovic the favourite.
Since the match 12 months ago, when Murray hit an astonishing amount of groundstrokes into the net and lost it with his supporters' box, they have met twice.
In the Italian Open semi-final Murray was two points from victory before being squeezed out, but the Serb has won Wimbledon and the US Open since. Murray won at Cincinnati in August when his opponent withdrew with a shoulder injury.
If there are signs of encouragement it was that Djokovic briefly experienced his old breathing problems when Ferrer came back at him in their second set. And his serve was tatty by normal standards. But then so was Murray's as he continually struggled to consolidate after breaking Nikishori's serve at will.
Djokovic knows he is in danger, with the pair having dropped just one set each.
'Andy is very fit and motivated to win his first Grand Slam,' he said. 'Two years he has been in the final here – he's proved that the Australian Open is his best major.'