Andy Murray will play his first match since returning from back surgery in Abu Dhabi on St Stephens Day, with his sights already firmly set on reaching a fourth career Australian Open final.
Murray has been undergoing a rigorous pre-season training regime in Florida in a bid to recover from the surgery, stopping just long enough to pick up the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.
The world’s top four players are all in Abu Dhabi for the tenuously-titled World Tennis Championships, where they will seek valuable preparation time in a tournament which uses similar courts and equipment to those to be found in Melbourne.
Murray said: “Everyone is looking for matches at the beginning of the year and not all of the tournaments in the build-up are played on blue courts, or with Aussie Open balls.
“Before grand slams, if you can make it as close as you can to what the top players like to play in, you are going to get strong fields. It’s just good preparation.”
Far from struggling for new motivation after ending his nation’s long wait for a Wimbledon men’s singles champion last summer, Murray is intent on building on his two grand slam titles to date and pushing all the way towards the year-ending world number one ranking.
He will have plenty of incentive heading to Melbourne, where he lost finals in 2010, 2011 and last year, when he took the first set against Novak Djokovic before eventually succumbing in four.
Murray told Sky Sports News: “I want to try and win as much as I can, I lost enough times in big matches to not want to do that.
“I don’t want to lose four slam finals in a row again; that was horrible.
“But I also know how hard it is to win those tournaments. It may never happen again, I might not win another one but I just want to give myself the best chance to do that and that’s why we do the work over here and train and prepare as best as we can.
“Hopefully I’ll give myself an opportunity to win another one.”