Andy Murray warns of ‘tough’ Japan ahead of Davis Cup defence

Dan Evans, who was ranked below 700 before rising to No 157, will face world No 6 Kei Nishikori. Picture: PA

Dan Evans, who was ranked below 700 before rising to No 157, will face world No 6 Kei Nishikori. Picture: PA

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Andy Murray has set his sights on a successful defence of the Davis Cup.

The world No 2 has committed himself to playing in all this year’s ties if fit and sees no reason why, after ending a 79-year wait for a tenth title, Great Britain cannot hold on to the 
trophy.

Murray, who will kick off the title defence against Japan’s Taro Daniel today, said: “I think one of the reasons I’m here this year is because I really want to try and do it again, after experiencing it last year.

“I never thought we would be able to do it but then when we did it was like: ‘Why not, why can’t we do it again?’

“I think everyone on the team loved that whole experience of winning and I think we would all love to try to do it again, but the best way to do that is not thinking that far ahead.

“We could lose this tie, it’s a really tough match to win, they have a really, really good team.”

The second match at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena will be between world No 6 Kei Nishikori and Dan Evans, who was given the nod for the British No 2 spot with Kyle Edmund struggling to overcome a back injury.

The 21-year-old sustained the problem in practice on Wednesday and captain Leon Smith deemed him too much of a risk.

Smith said: “We stopped (practice) immediately to give it as much time to settle down as possible. It was better this morning, but, like a lot of these injuries, it felt like a bit of a race against time.

“Therefore it would be a risk to him, a risk to the team. And we’ve got Dan who is fully fit, plays well indoors, good Davis Cup experience and ready to go.

“It’s tough on Kyle, who is a very good player. But I’ve got every confidence that Dan can go in and play very, very well over this weekend.”

Evans has produced some of his best tennis in the Davis Cup and had set his heart on playing this match in his home city.

The 25-year-old was a spectator at the same venue for matches against the USA in 1999 and Sweden three years later – “We lost both, hopefully that won’t happen this weekend” – and is looking forward to the experience.

He said: “I’m going to enjoy it. Obviously I’ll be proud to be playing in front of the Birmingham crowd. Hopefully they make a lot of noise and have a good day.”

Evans’ career appeared to be seriously on the wane last year when his ranking dropped below 700, with a knee injury partly but not solely to blame.

But he has put together an impressive run of results over the last eight months, including qualifying for the Australian Open, to climb back to 157. Evans also has a winning record against Nishikori, having beaten him in straight sets on his way to the third round of the US Open in 2013 – the tournament that showed the enormous potential he possesses.

Nishikori, who reached the final in New York the following year, had been preparing to face Edmund but is confident of avoiding a similar fate this time against Evans.

He said: “We’ve both changed a lot. I’ve got better the last few years. I’m sure we both play a little bit different. I have to change some tactics but I’ll try to play my tennis. He played great tennis [in New York]. I think I was a little bit nervous, I don’t remember much but obviously I didn’t play good tennis.”

Facing Murray will be the biggest match of 87th-ranked Daniel’s life.

The 23-year-old, whose father hails from California, is a big fan of Led Zeppelin and prompted laughter when he said he would like his entrance music to be their song Dazed and Confused.

Daniel said: “I don’t think I’ll be too confused. I’ll be nervous but excited as well. I can expect a certain amount of noise, it’s going to be something I’ve never experienced before, which is a little scary but mostly 
exciting.”

Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot make up the British team and were nominated to play in the doubles rubber tomorrow, although Andy Murray could well step in.

It is a similar scenario for Japan, who named Yoshihito Nishioka and Yasutaka Uchiyama as their doubles pair but could put Nishikori in as a 
substitute.

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