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Now or never for British hope Murray

In 12 torrid months, Britain's Andy Murray has fallen from genuine contender to outsider for his first Grand Slam crown, with the clock ticking ever louder for his breakthrough.

sports Updated: Jan 13, 2011 10:26 IST

In 12 torrid months, Britain's Andy Murray has fallen from genuine contender to outsider for his first Grand Slam crown, with the clock ticking ever louder for his breakthrough.

The 23-year-old Scot reached last year's Australian Open final with some of the best tennis of his career, but hit a brick wall in the form of an inspired Roger Federer in his second major final.

Unfortunately for Murray, there were no more Grand Slam highlights during what he admitted was an inconsistent year, culminating in a disappointing third-round loss to Stanislas Wawrinka at the US Open.

Unlike 2009, when the world number five won six tournaments to head into 2010 as one of the form players of world tennis, Murray won just two titles last year and appears a diminished figure.

Last season established Murray as firmly behind Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the pecking order, and tempered British hopes of a first major win since 1936. He is currently ranked fifth behind Robin Soderling.

Speaking after winning all three of his singles matches at the mixed teams Hopman Cup in Perth last week, Murray notably stopped short of repeating last year's bold declaration that he was ready to win in Melbourne.

"I don't know," he said when asked if he could win the Australian Open.

"I feel like it's been a good week but I'm definitely not going to get carried away. It can change on a daily basis.

"You've just got to try and keep working hard and hopefully come the tournament I'll be playing well."

Worryingly for Murray, he has now gone 20 Grand Slams without a title and history suggests he is fast reaching the time when it is now or never, as none of his current rivals took so long to win their first major.

The low-key Murray admitted he had his work cut out to go one better than last year.

"Last year's Aussie Open was one of the best events that I have played in my life," said Murray.

"I played some of my best tennis, but I'll have to play even better if I want to win (this year), because Rafa and Roger are playing so well just now."