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Murray feeling fresh ahead of Japan Open

Kyodo

A well-rested Andy Murray returns to action with his eye on a big finish to the season, the world No. 3 player said Sunday prior to beginning his defense of the Japan Open.

Murray, who has not played since winning the U.S. Open in early September for his first Grand Slam title, is ready to finish the 2012 season in better form than he did last year, when he had to pull out of the ATP World Tour Finals with an injury.

“I try to win as many matches as I can to finish the year,” he told a press conference at Ariake Tennis Forest Park. “I’d also like to play well in the Tour Finals in London, I didn’t have the chance to do that last year and that was a very disappointing way to finish the year.

“I want to make sure I’m 100 percent fit and healthy for that tournament and try and finish the year well there.

“I think a lot of the players at this stage of year are a little bit tired, a little bit mentally and a little bit physically as well. You need to find the best way of managing that for the last couple of months of the year,” he said.

In the aftermath of the U.S. Open, the 25-year-old enjoyed the luxury of shutting down for several days before going back to his hometown in Scotland for 2½ weeks to spend time with family and friends.

“I had to do a few things after the U.S. Open, but I also had time for about four or five days rest, which usually there’s not too many times when you can get complete rest,” he said. “That was nice.”

His leisurely approach has continued in the build up to the Japan Open.

“It’s nice to come back,” he said. “We got here much earlier than last year, when I came straight from Bangkok. I got here Thursday this year, so I’ve had a few more days to enjoy the city a little bit. It’s been fun.

“I like it (this tournament). You get good crowds for the matches. The center court is very nice to play on. Obviously, I have good memories from last year.”

He’ll begin his tournament defense against Gael Monfils of France, who is ranked 45th in the world.

“I’ve played him I think five times and lost to him a couple of times and he’s a great athlete so that’s going to be a tough match to start,” said Murray, who also won the doubles here last year with his brother Jamie.

“And then I look forward to the doubles with my brother. I hope we can have another good tournament.”

Murray, whose results have been improving steadily for several years, was asked about the difference between this year and last — when he reached three Grand Slam semifinals and one final.

“I think I’ve probably improved mentally a little bit, physically, I hope I have a little bit, too, and I hope I’ve improved my game a bit,” he said.

“It’s very important at my age to make sure you keep trying to learn and get better. With the way men’s tennis is just now, there’s a lot of depth. The top of the game is very, very strong. So if you want to improve your ranking and win more tournaments, you need to keep finding ways to improve your game. I hope it’s not just been one thing but a lot of small things.”