Each January as the Australian Open rolls around to get the ball of another Grand Slam season in play in Melbourne, one question on the lips of every tennis lover is whether Andy Murray can do it this time.
Murray has a strong affinity with a tournament which attracted a massive 720 899 spectators last year, but ends up being the bridesmaid instead of the bride, having to accept runner-up status in five finals between 2010 and 2016.
Invariably, it has been the Novak Djokovic dreadnought which has holed the title hopes of the lanky Scot below the waterline.
The big Serb has won 12 Grand Slam titles – six of them at the Aussie Open, including last year when he got the better of Murray for the fourth time in the four finals the pair have contested in Melbourne.
The tournament was first awarded Grand Slam status in 1924 but because of the distances involved in travelling Down Under before the age of intercontinental jet travel, was not the player magnet it has become.
A $3.1 million boost to the bank balance of both men’s and women’s singles champions is not a bad inducement, either.
Murray goes into the tournament as the world’s No 1-ranked player and the reigning Wimbledon champion and Olympic gold medallist. But he was beaten yet again in a three-setter against his nemesis at the Doha Open in the first week of the new year.
Djokovic comes to the Melbourne Park courts with the confidence of that victory in the Gulf and as Australian and French Open champion, and with an 83% match-winning rate as computed last August, the best in the Open era.
It all points to another war of attrition between the Serb and the Scot. But tennis, as has often been proved, is an endless battle where no one wins every time.