MELBOURNE, Australia - The novelty of being the first British man to win a Grand Slam title in 76 years is about to give way to the reality of being a reigning major winner.
It's just another reason Andy Murray has found to keep Ivan Lendl in his corner.
Murray's career-changing win at the U.S. Open in September came shortly after his breakthrough win at the London Olympics, where he avenged a painful loss on the same court to Roger Federer at Wimbledon.
Murray, a 25-year-old Scot, said it was the most intense three months of his life. He's had time to celebrate the win and dwell on its significance, and now he is ready for his first Grand Slam event since, and at a venue where he has twice lost in the final.
"Obviously, the last few years I got close but never managed to get over the final hurdle," he said of his four previous failures in Grand Slam finals. "So whether it was a mental thing, whether it was things in my game I needed to improve, physical things, who knows exactly.
"But now that I've managed to do it, I hope that when I'm in those situations again I'll deal with them better and put less pressure on myself, which obviously will help me play better."
Murray's biggest obstacles to a second Grand Slam remain top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who is aiming for a third consecutive Australian Open title, and No. 2-ranked Federer, who has won four Australian titles among his 17 majors.
Serena Williams has won five Australian Open titles, more than any woman in the Open era, and with a run of 35 victories in her last 36 matches, is among the top contenders again in Melbourne. Her run includes the titles at Wimbledon, the London Olympics, the U.S. Open, the WTA Championship and the Brisbane International last week.
Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka hasn't added to her Grand Slam collection since winning at Melbourne Park last year, when she beat Maria Sharapova in the final. And she'll likely have to beat Williams to reach the final after both were drawn in the same half.
Azarenka has lost 11 of her 12 matches against Williams, including all five last year, but is confident she can turn it around and doesn't feel any extra pressure to defend a title.
"I would like to win every time we meet. It doesn't really matter where it is," she said.
Sharapova withdrew from the Brisbane International with a collarbone injury and said taking the time to get healthy was crucial.
"It's kind of the way that I've always built my career around the fact that it's very important for me to go into something like the Australian Open believing and knowing that I'm healthy, that I'm confident," she said.
On TV today
• When: 4:30 p.m.
• TV: ESPN2