Andy Murray believes he could not have possibly done anything more to prepare himself for a fourth Australian Open final on Sunday.
Murray is looking to become the first man in the open era to win the title after suffering defeats in his first three finals, the Scot having lost to Roger Federer in 2010 and Novak Djokovic in 2011 and 2013.
Djokovic again stands in his way of a third grand slam title after battling past defending champion Stan Wawrinka in the semi-finals, the world number one also holding a 15-8 winning record against Murray after seven victories in their last eight meetings.
However, the record in grand slam finals is 2-2 with Murray beating Djokovic in the US Open in 2012 and Wimbledon the following year, and the 27-year-old has confidence in his preparations ahead of Sunday’s showdown.
Murray was quick to defend his coach Amelie Mauresmo after beating Tomas Berdych in the semi-finals and added: “After spending the off-season with Amelie working on a bunch of things, having a sustained sort of period together, I did a great training block. I worked extremely hard physically in the off-season.
“I worked well to give myself the opportunity to play like this. The way that I feel today compared with how I felt after losing in four sets last year, I could barely move at the end of the match because I was so sore and stiff. I felt strong at the end (against Berdych).
“Obviously losing in finals is disappointing. But making four finals is a very, very difficult thing to do and I’m proud of my record here. I’ll try my best on Sunday. I’ll go in with the best tactics possible, prepare well, have a couple of days’ rest, recover as best as I can.
“All I can do is give my best. If it’s enough, great. If not, I literally couldn’t have done anything more to put myself in a better position come Sunday.”
Murray ended last year being thrashed 6-0 6-1 by Roger Federer in the ATP World Tour Finals in London, but followed that with his traditional gruelling winter training regime in Florida.
And Djokovic is not surprised to be facing his fellow 27-year-old - he was born just a week later than Murray - in the final in Melbourne for the third time.
“It’s not the first time in his career that he’s turning things around this way,” Djokovic said. “He had in the last five years periods where maybe he goes through half of the season where he just doesn’t feel well, he doesn’t make any significant results for his standards, and then he gets to the finals of a grand slam or he wins a grand slam.
“Of course, people do expect a lot from him because he is a top player, a grand slam winner, an Olympic gold medallist. We all know he has the quality in his game. It’s not a huge surprise, honestly, to see him in the finals.
“But you’re right, looking at where he was at the O2 and his game at the end of 2014 season, maybe people were not giving him such a great chance to get to the finals. But to me it’s not a huge surprise because I know what his qualities are, you know, what he can play and what he can deliver.”
Djokovic dropped just one set in beating Murray in their two previous finals in Melbourne but has seen the sixth seed enjoy comfortable progress through the draw, the Scot losing only two sets and seeing Federer and Rafael Nadal removed from his path in the draw.
“He’s been playing some great tennis these couple of weeks,” Djokovic added. “From my side, it’s going to be necessary to perform at my best and play the best match.”