Murray beats Dimitrov to defend Brisbane title
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — His voice cracking, an emotional Andy Murray used his victory speech to offer encouragement to an absent friend.
Murray kicked off 2013 with a successful defense of his Brisbane International title, holding off Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (0), 6-4 on Sunday.
"I'd like to dedicate this victory to one of my best friends," Murray said. "Thank you very much. He's back home watching and, you're going to get through."
He signed what appeared to say "For You Perched" on a small plaque after the match, but wouldn't disclose the identity of his friend.
Murray began his breakthrough season in 2012 by winning in Brisbane and tacked on career-changing titles at the London Olympics and U.S. Open.
The Australian Open starts Jan. 14, and Murray heads to the first major of the season without the enormous pressure he had a year ago. The 76-year drought for British men at the majors is over, so he doesn't have to answer those questions now.
The 25-year-old Scot started slowly against Dimitrov and had to recover breaks in both sets. He was happy with the payoff from his concerted efforts to work on playing aggressively.
"I got off to not the best start and he was playing very aggressive, and by the end of the first set I had turned the tables," he said.
"It's a change of mentality really, and that doesn't happen in a few weeks. It's taken time to believe that that's the right thing to do, to be aggressive."
The 21-year-old Dimitrov raced to a 4-1 lead in his first ATP World Tour final, stunning Murray with some impressive backhands, but lost his nerve and was broken when serving for the set at 5-3. After getting back on serve, No. 3-ranked Murray saved a set point with an ace and forced a tiebreaker, which he dominated.
In the second, Murray drilled a backhand into the net to give up a service break and a 4-3 lead to Dimitrov, and chastised himself as he sat in his chair at the changeover, yelling: "legs, legs, legs, legs, legs."
He raised his game immediately to break back in a three-game roll, getting quick points from a backhand passing shot and a stunning return to set up a break point and a tying backhand winner down the line.
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