Murray aims to end career-best year on a high

TOKYO Sun Sep 30, 2012 9:44am EDT

Andy Murray of Britain arrives at his practice session for the Japan Open tennis championships in Tokyo September 30, 2012. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Andy Murray of Britain arrives at his practice session for the Japan Open tennis championships in Tokyo September 30, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Toru Hanai

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Andy Murray has promised to end the year on a high after a career-best season in which he captured Olympic gold and ended Britain's 76-year wait for a men's grand slam champion.

The 25-year-old begins his defense of the Japan Open title this week in Tokyo, where he faces Frenchman Gael Monfils in his first match since his New York triumph earlier this month.

"It will be a tough first match against Monfils," Murray told reporters. "I've played him I think five times and lost to him a couple of times. He's a great athlete."

The Scot, who also reached his first Wimbledon final this year, said he was hungry for more success before looking back at a job well done in 2012.

"Obviously I have good memories (of Tokyo) from last year," said the world number three, who beat Rafa Nadal in a memorable final, losing just four points in a 6-0 third set.

"It's nice to come back. I'd also like to play well at the Tour Finals in London. I didn't have the chance to do that last year (because of a groin strain).

"It was a very disappointing way to end the year. I want to make sure I'm 100 percent fit for that tournament and finish the year well there."

Murray, whose decision to hire former world number one Ivan Lendl as coach this year looks an inspired move, said he felt stronger mentally, physically and technically than ever.

"I've probably improved mentally a little bit," the Scot said with some understatement after finally breaking his string of grand slam heartache.

"It's very important at my age to make sure you keep trying to learn and get better," added Murray, often accused of being a "choker" after losing his first four grand slam finals.

"I've improved my game. That's the thing I've been the most pleased with this year. With the way men's tennis is now - there is a lot of depth.

"The top of the men's game is very, very strong so if you want to improve your ranking and win more tournaments you need to keep finding things to improve your game."

Murray has done just that under Lendl, avenging his Wimbledon loss to Roger Federer at the London Olympics before beating Novak Djokovic in a pulsating U.S. Open final.

A well-rested Murray arrived early for his Tokyo title defense, flying in from Bangkok on Thursday.

"I've had a few more days to enjoy the city a bit," he said. "It's been fun. I've had four or five days complete rest. During the season there's not many times you can do that."

Murray is also looking forward to playing doubles at the Japan Open after winning that title too with brother Jamie last year.

"A lot of players at this stage of the year are a bit mentally and physically tired," he said. "You need to find the best way of managing for the last couple of months of the year."

(Editing by John Mehaffey)

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