It is not the same court surface, there will not be the same atmosphere and the pressure will certainly be nowhere near as intense but today Andy Murray will have the perfect dress rehearsal for the Davis Cup final.
Today, the world No 2 and the man who has led Britain to their first Davis Cup final since 1978, will face David Goffin in the third round of the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris. And Goffin is the man who has led Belgium to their first Davis cup final since 1904 (when, incidentally, they were beaten 5-0 by Great Britain at Wimbledon).
We don’t know each other’s games that well. Getting a chance to play him is good before the Davis CupAndy Murray
The two national No.1s are both planning to play both singles and doubles in the final – to be held in Ghent starting on 27 November – and both know that they will need to win in both disciplines if their country is to stand a chance of winning. Today’s match, then, could not be more finely balanced.
But the Paris Masters is played on an indoor hard court while the Davis Cup final will be played on a slow, indoor clay court. The Flanders Expo Centre will be packed to the rafters with a rowdy and partisan crowd; the 17,000-seater AccordHotels Arena in Paris is likely to be all but empty when Murray gets to work this morning at 9.30am GMT. And whoever loses will not worry too much – it will just give them more time to practise on clay before the final. No matter, Murray is relishing the chance to have a closer look at Goffin’s game.
“Any time you spend time on court with opponents, you can learn about their game,” Murray said. “The thing is the ball and the movements and everything are completely different on a clay court, and that’s why some guys play better on some surfaces than others. Things that he might not do well on a hard court he might do better on clay.
“It’s obviously good to play against him. But I will, obviously, before the tie, watch matches of him playing on clay to learn and understand his game better on that surface.”
They have played only once before when Murray cruised past his Belgian rival in straight sets at Wimbledon last year. Since then, they have practised together a couple of times but they still barely know each other. Yet as Goffin has moved up the rankings in the past couple of the years and has established himself as a member of the world’s top 20 – he is ranked No 17 this week – Murray has watched the Belgian’s matches whenever they have found themselves at the same tournament.
“He’s very solid, obviously,” Murray said. “In the last 18 months really he’s been extremely consistent. He’s not the biggest guy on the tour, but he hits the ball clean off both sides. He’s got good hands. He’s quick around the court. We don’t really know each other’s games that well. So that’s why getting a chance to play against him is good before the Davis Cup.
“I don’t think he plays like someone of his build would normally play. He’s pretty offensive, he tries to attack, he goes for big first serves, he doesn’t just roll the serve in, he tries to serve aces, he’ll come up to the net when he has the chance. If he has to, he’ll obviously defend because he’s very quick but I don’t think that that’s the best part of his game. I think he likes to try to take the ball on.”
Whether that will be enough to make a dent in Murray’s defences today is open to debate. The Scot was in top form yesterday as he brushed aside the challenge of Borna Coric, the 18-year-old Croat many are tipping for future stardom. Murray took 58 minutes to win 6-1, 6-2 and was never troubled.
“It was good,” Murray said. “I thought I played a pretty good match. Served well. I felt like I was able to move the ball around the court nicely. Was able to dictate most of the points. Played with good variety. I thought it was a good match.”
Unfortunately, the other Britons in Paris could follow the world No.2’s march into the next round – Murray’s brother Jamie, alongside partner John Peers, was beaten in the doubles 7-6, 7-5 by Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram while Aljaz Bedene was beaten 6-3, 7-6 by John Isner.