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DUBAI (Reuters) - Andy Murray will aim for a 32nd singles title in Dubai this week temporarily shorn of his coach and practice partners as he tries to put his latest grand slam disappointment behind him.
The world number four made it six losses in eight grand slam finals with another defeat by Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open this month, the 27-year-old Scot matching the Serb for two sets before losing 12 of the last 13 games in Melbourne.
Murray could face Djokovic again in the Dubai championships final but for now he is looking for someone to practice with.
His coach Amelie Mauresmo is absent in part due to her duties as captain of France’s Federation Cup team and will not return until Indian Wells in mid-March.
Murray was due to knock up with Fernando Verdasco on Sunday but the Spaniard was held up at Dubai airport for eight hours.
Verdasco's compatriot Feliciano Lopez, who is a left-hander like Murray’s first-round opponent Gilles Muller, also scrapped a mooted practice session on Monday due to illness.
The Scot said he preferred to have a coach with him.
“If you have a coach around it’s a lot easier to do basket drills or work on specific things,” Murray told reporters. “You can get constant feedback with what you’re doing.”
In Rotterdam two weeks ago - his first tournament since Melbourne - the twice grand slam champion eliminated two low-ranked opponents in the opening rounds before losing to world No. 19 Gilles Simon in straight sets.
That followed a mixed 2014 for Murray, who slipped outside the world top 10 last September for the first time in six years after failing to make it beyond the quarter-finals in all but two tournaments from January to August.
His form improved markedly thereafter as he won in Shenzhen, Vienna and Valencia and this year’s run to the Australian Open final put him back among the elite quartet of the men’s game alongside Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Of those, only Nadal is absent from Dubai, which Murray said he was playing to prepare for the heat of the U.S. hard court circuit.
But Dubai was engulfed in a sandstorm for the previous two days and rare rainfall spotted the practice courts on Sunday.
“When sand was on the courts it was incredibly quick, so for everyone it might take a little time to get used to the conditions,” added Murray.
Reporting by Matt Smith; Editing by Ken Ferris