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Murray faces agonising truth

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OPINION: It has become the surest glimmer of January sunshine, the sight of Andy Murray's straining limbs framed by Melbourne Park's Plexicushion blue.

His deep runs at the Australian Open are such an annual ritual that he remains the only player of the modern era, male or female, to reach the final of the same major five times and never win. Four of those defeats came at the hands of Novak Djokovic, and Thursday's practice match between the pair served, sadly, as the bleakest nostalgia trip.

The scoreline: 6-1, 4-1 in the Serb's favour after 49 minutes, the sorry spectacle curtailed only when they ran beyond their allotted time slot. For Murray, it was a flavour of how it felt this week to be the Burton Albion goalkeeper en route to a 9-0 schooling. He could try all the desperate parrying he liked, but the upshot was still rank humiliation.

Where Manchester City could be forgiven for putting their foot to the floor - it was the first half of a two-legged semi-final, after all - Murray hardly expected his squashing to be quite so messy, in what was nominally a casual hit-up between friends.

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* Hip specialist 'wanted to cry' for Murray

As Andy Roddick said plaintively to Murray during a thrashing by the Scot at Queen's: "Keep it........

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