Andy Murray’s return probably too late for GB’s Davis Cup purposes

Kevin Mitchell
Andy Murray donned a wig and hat when playing Roger Federer and, though his movement was good, he is unlikely to play in the Davis Cup tie that follows the Australian Open. Photograph: BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

Andy Murray surprised Roger Federer by how well he moved in their exhibition match in Glasgow on Tuesday night but his long-time confidant Leon Smith knew his fellow Scot was ready to come back after four months away from the game.

“I had already been in the position of seeing him hit last week and was pleasantly surprised by how well he was moving on the court,” the Great Britain Davis Cup captain said. “He was having a hitting session with [the young British player] Jay Clarke. It was really pleasing to see it again. I don’t think Roger was bluffing when he said he was also pleasantly surprised at how well Andy was moving either.”

However, Smith gave the impression Murray would not play in Great Britain’s Davis Cup away tie against Spain a week after the Australian Open in February. “It’s still a long way to go before putting yourself through a fully competitive match but considering where he was eight weeks ago and that there are eight weeks until Australia [where he intends to return to the Tour in Brisbane in January], it is very encouraging.

“The good thing now is that he can focus totally on getting ready for that. We have seen him working out in front of a big crowd and, even if it was only an exhibition, it is still playing against Roger Federer in front of your home crowd. The whole thing should have sharpened his senses.”

What none of the 11,000 people in the stadium knew was that Murray’s wife, Kim, had recently given birth to their second child, another girl. They took their first, Sophia, with them to Australia this year, although it is unclear if they intend to make this trip another family holiday.

Smith added: “He was pretty open that he is planning on playing in Brisbane and he seems clear about the logistics in preparing for that [two weeks in Miami and a pre-Christmas arrival in Australia to acclimatise]. The whole thing seemed like a very encouraging step forward.”

However, the Davis Cup remains problematic – for the coach and his best player. Murray missed the last tie, and the former holders were whitewashed. This time, on clay, possibly in Barcelona, they will probably have to do without him again.

“It would be pointless for me to have a conversation with him now about it as his fitness is his No1 priority,” Smith said. “The fact that it’s on clay with what you would assume is a change of surface doesn’t make it look that easy for him. Playing Spain is the tie that everyone thought would be the most difficult, and that’s the way it came out. From what I hear the most likely thing is for it to be outdoors somewhere in the south.”

But Smith is upbeat about Great Britain’s prospects with the players available – chief among them Murray’s brother, Jamie. “Andy has obviously had a frustrating year and we have really missed him in the second half but, after last night, there should be a lot of excitement about what he might be able to do next season.

“Jamie should never be taken for granted, he has set a very high benchmark, he’s in one of the top-four teams in the world and qualified again for London.

“I thought Kyle [Edmund] did a really good job towards the end of the year. He is in the top 50 at 22 years old and it wouldn’t surprise me if he has a strong year in 2018. He is investing in his tennis with his new coaches and he could easily be already seeded in the slams if he had converted some of those third sets this season.

“It would be great if Cam Norrie could force his way into the main draw for the slams, and there have been very encouraging signs from Liam Broady and Jay Clarke. Dan Evans will be coming back and so I think generally there are grounds for optimism next year.”

Federer v Zverev in ATP finals

Roger Federer has been paired in the same group as Alexander Zverev for next week’s ATP World Tour Finals in London. Rafael Nadal, who is hoping to recover from a knee injury to play in the season-ending showpiece, heads the other group and should face David Goffin, Grigor Dimitrov and Dominic Thiem. Also in the Pete Sampras group with Federer is Marin Cilic, the player he beat in this year’s Wimbledon final, and Jack Sock, who crept into the tournament after winning the Paris Masters.

Zverev has taken men’s tennis by storm this year, rocketing up to No3 in the world rankings after winning five titles, including two Masters 1000 events.

“It’s an honour to play there in London, it’s my first time and hopefully not my last,” the 20-year-old German said in Milan where he took part in an exhibition match at the Next Gen Finals, having dropped out to concentrate on London. “I will try to prepare myself as well as I can and try to win many matches there.”

Zverev is one of three debutants with Dimitrov finally qualifying after being long-predicted to become a regular member of the men’s elite. Sock is the first American to qualify since Mardy Fish did so in 2011. Goffin has qualified for the first time also, although last year the Belgian played a match as an alternate.

The draw, which took place on BBC radio, was delayed because Boris Becker, who Nadal’s group is named after, was held up by traffic on his way to the studio.

Several big names are missing this year through injury including Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka. Reuters

ATP World Tour Finals draw

Pete Sampras group:

Roger Federer - Switzerland (2)

Alexander Zverev - Germany (3)

Marin Cilic - Croatia (5)

Jack Sock - US (9)

Boris Becker group

Rafael Nadal - Spain (1)

Dominic Thiem - Austria (4)

Grigor Dimitrov - Bulgaria (6)

David Goffin - Belgium (8)

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes