Indian Wells: Andy Murray`s storming 14-2 start to the season has been fuelled by a radically improved booming forehand and increased confidence, the British world number four said on Thursday.
Since appointing Ivan Lendl as his new coach at the end of last year, Murray has become stronger mentally, won his 22nd ATP World Tour title in Brisbane and beaten top-ranked Serb Novak Djokovic in Dubai.
A perfect barometer of his improvement has been his losing effort to Djokovic in the last two Australian Open finals, coming back from a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 pounding in 2011 to be edged 6-3, 3-6, 6-7, 6-1, 7-5 after a pulsating tussle in January.
"Last year I got to the final in Australia but that final was quite a tough loss for me because I felt a long way behind (Djokovic), even if I wasn`t that far behind," Murray told reporters at Indian Wells on Thursday.
"Whereas this year it was different and with that Dubai win, that helped as well. And having someone like Ivan has helped a lot too, with my confidence.
"I feel a lot stronger mentally, I feel very calm on the court right now, and in practice I have been very relaxed. I am looking forward to starting this tournament because I am playing well."
Murray, who will meet either Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or Portugal`s Rui Machado in the second round at Indian Wells after a first-round bye, believes the biggest improvement in his game has been addition of more punch to his forehand.
"If you watch what it was like before and what it is like now, it is pretty major," the 24-year-old Scot said. "It`s not a major change but when you look at it, it`s very different in terms of the way that I am moving my feet.
"This week I have been hitting it really, really well and hopefully I can keep that up. It makes a big difference, especially going into the claycourt season because it`s probably one of the most important shots on clay.
"I never used to make that many mistakes on my forehand, it`s just a bigger weapon now than it was before and that`s important, to keep developing weapons in different ways to win points and shorten points as well ... the more free points you can get, the less toll matches are going to take on your body."
Murray, who crushed Djokovic 6-2, 7-5 in the semi-finals of last week`s Dubai Championships before losing 7-5, 6-4 to Roger Federer in the final, has been delighted with the addition of Lendl to his coaching team.
"We did a lot of good work before Dubai and he will be with me pretty much for the next six, seven weeks after (the) Miami (Masters Series event) is done," Murray said of the eight-times grand slam champion.
"We have a lot of things in common. We both like hard work. He is very professional and he didn`t leave any stone unturned when he played. He was one of the first guys who started taking the physical side of the game seriously.
"I knew his personality so nothing has surprised me there. We have got on very well."
Murray announced Czech-born Lendl`s appointment at the end of last year after flying solo for most of 2011 following his split with coaching consultant Spaniard Alex Corretja, who he had employed on ad hoc basis since 2008.