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Australian Open: Murray rolling back the years ahead of Melbourne major

Former world number one Andy Murray has endured an injury-ravaged three years, but he may be returning to form and fitness just in time to mount a sustained challenge at the upcoming Australian Open.

Murray has enjoyed a memorable and prolonged career, winning three Grand Slam titles and topping the world rankings in an era when he was up against arguably the three greatest players of all time in Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

That may well have taken its toll on the 34-year-old, who underwent career-saving hip surgery in January 2019, and he has had to deal with numerous niggling injuries ever since.

However, Murray appears to be hitting a decent run of form and fitness in the build-up to the opening Grand Slam of the year.

This week he has made it through to his first ATP Tour final since 2019 at the Sydney Tennis Classic, where he will face Aslan Karatsev for the title on Saturday.

The signs are promising for Murray

Since undergoing hip surgery in 2019, Murray has won just one ATP Tour title, beating Stan Wawrinka in the European Open final that same year, while he has not been able to make it beyond the third round of a Grand Slam event.

While a deep run at one of the big four tournaments may now be beyond him at this stage of his career, Murray does at least seem to be returning to decent form, as shown by his progress in Sydney where he has seen off two players ranked in the top 30 of the world in Nikoloz Basilashvili and Reilly Opelka.

Murray admitted after his semi-final victory over Opelka that it has already been a "big week" for him regardless of whether he beats Karatsev in the final, although he can be backed at 11/10 to get the better of his top-seeded opponent.

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Is an extended Melbourne run possible?

Next week's Australian Open will see Murray compete in the opening Grand Slam of the year for the first time since losing in the first round to Roberto Bautista Agut in 2019, just weeks before he underwent hip surgery.

The world number 135 will face a familiar foe in the first round in Melbourne, as he will take on Georgian 21st seed Basilashvili, who he, of course, beat in Sydney.

Murray can be backed at 4/9 to win that contest and set up a clash with either Japan's Taro Daniel or Tomas Barrios of Chile, while world number 11 Jannik Sinner could await in round three, with all the action on the Sports Live Streaming.

Further down the line, if Murray dares to dream, and his root through to the final could be blocked by top-10 players Casper Ruud, Stefanos Tsitsipas and US Open champion Daniil Medvedev. Looking at the competitive nature of that draw and it is easy to see why the Brit is priced at 25/1 just to reach the final.

Murray has unfinished business Down Under

During Murray's glittering career he has won Wimbledon twice, the US Open and two Olympic gold medals, but he has never got his hands on the Australian Open despite reaching the final five times between 2010-16.

Murray's first foray to the final saw him lose in straight sets to Federer, while his following four defeats were all against Djokovic, including in 2013 when he was unable to capitalise on winning the first set.

It would take a monumental effort for Murray, priced at 80/1, to go on and win the tournament, but as we saw with fellow Brit Emma Raducanu's victory at the US Open last September, anything is possible in tennis.

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