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MURRAY SET TO FACE CILIC
Andy Murray hopes to play an exhibition match against Marin Cilic at the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne on Thursday, if the weather allows him to complete his Australian Open build-up.
Six of the world's top 15 will head to the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club in Melbourne to continue the build-up to next week's Australian Open.
British number one Murray played a warm-up match at the venue last year before going all the way to the final at Melbourne Park, where he was denied a maiden Grand Slam success by Roger Federer.
Murray is following the same warm-up routine as 12 months ago having played in the Hopman Cup and then a tune-up contest with Cilic, who he beat in a tight semi-final at the Australian Open last year, providing the weather holds.
"He will play a match with Cilic at the end of the draw on Thursday, subject to weather conditions," tournament director Colin Stubs said.
Snubbing the ATP Tour events in the Hopman Cup saw Murray slip to fifth seed in Melbourne, but he was not concerned with the drop having been seeded fifth last year.
"I was seeded five for the Australian Open last year and managed to get to the final so I don't think it makes a big difference," Murray said.
Forecasted showers could interrupt Murray and the rest of the field's warm-up plans though, with the likes of champion Fernando Verdasco, Asutralian Open semi-finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and home hero Lleyton Hewitt all lining up in the draw.
"Everyone prepares differently," Hewitt said. "This is my first time at Kooyong, there's a lot of history about the place.
"I'll be excited to play on the court where a lot of my tennis idols growing up played during past Australian Opens."
Kooyong staged the Australian Open until two decades ago, and the venue provides players with matches on the same surface that is sued across the city at Melbourne Park for the big one next week.
"We are all trying to play the best tennis and get the best rhythm for the Open," said world number nine Verdasco. "It's the same for me. I want to get used to the conditions for next week. There is no extra pressure on me."
Everyone is trying to get the very best preparation for the Australian Open, with Federer practising in private but Gael Monfils, Mikhail Youzhny, Nikolay Davydenko and Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych playing in Kooyong.
"The season, it's already gone and then you're just starting and you just need to try to go step by step, not to be thinking too much," said 25-year-old Berdych.
"As all other guys just said, stay without any injury, stay and hopefully it's going to be a good season again."