THE chance for young Scots to see Andy Murray at the top of his game was instrumental in the decision to bring this week’s Davis Cup tie back to Glasgow, Great Britain captain Leon Smith said yesterday. The GB team begin their World Group tie with the USA tomorrow at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena, where the capacity of 7,500 is twice that of previous venue Braehead.
Smith and Murray, who could play with brother Jamie as well as competing in two singles rubbers, expect home advantage to be massive in the three-day tie. The Americans’ failure to capitalise on playing in San Diego was one of the reasons they lost to Britain in the competition last year, according to the Glaswegian.
“We’ve played in Scotland before at Braehead, which has been really good for us, but this is a step up in terms of an arena,” Smith said. “I was personally keen to get it back in Scotland even though we’ve played here quite a few times. There are so many events down south so people have really good access whether it’s Wimbledon, Queen’s et cetera.
“I think the Scottish fans deserve to get something more accessible for them and particularly while Andy is playing and active, the opportunity for them to see him up close is really important. We have two Wimbledon champions coming from Scotland, with Jamie having won the mixed, but it has to be built upon and quickly as well. Because time is important, to make sure that while Andy in particular is active at the very highest level of the game – which he still is obviously and will be for the foreseeable future – it’s really important to have that impact, spreading it everywhere across Scotland.”
Smith continued: “I think [home advantage] will be great. It will be a big noise and a big atmosphere and there’s no doubt that will make a big difference, when you’ve got a loud home support. When we played the Americans last year, even though they had home advantage, they didn’t make the most of it in terms of atmosphere and I think we will.”
Murray, who has represented Britain in the competition for a decade now, is equally glad to have a rare opportunity of playing so close to home.
“This is a big tie: the biggest home tie I’ve played,” he said. “This is home. This is where I grew up; this is where my family live. Except for me and my brother they virtually all still live in Dunblane and Kilsyth. I still have very strong ties to Dunblane for a number of reasons.
“I think for all of the team to play in front of a crowd like this is a great feeling. It’s not like that at the rest of the tournaments we play throughout the rest of the year. So to have a crowd that’s turning up just to support you is fantastic. I’m sure the whole team will respond well and hopefully make it a little bit harder for the US as well.”
In between practice sessions Murray, whose grandfather was on Hibernian’s books, has found the time to visit Hampden. “I just went and had a little walk around,” he said. “Saw the locker rooms and changing areas, warm-up areas, went out on to the pitch in the evening which was nice. Only been once to Hampden before for a cup final which Hibs lost – surprise. It was nice to go down on the pitch and stuff and see what it was like in the locker rooms. It was cool.”
Other team members James Ward and Dominic Inglot were also at the team press conference, but Jamie Murray was absent because of a slight cold, according to Smith.
“He’s a little bit under the weather. I think he’s okay – he should be fine.”
The elder brother had in any case already made a contribution earlier this week with some critical remarks about Tennis Scotland. “I think the LTA [Lawn Tennis Association] neglects Scotland,” Jamie said. “But in saying that, if I was in charge of dishing out the money I wouldn’t give a hell of a lot of money to Tennis Scotland with the people that are there.
“It would just be wasted. I just think there should have been a lot more done to have more indoor facilities in Scotland.”
Tennis Scotland have said that they are not responsible for building indoor complexes, and that they need to find business partners with funds before taking part in such projects.
Andy declined to join in the debate yesterday other than to say he respected his brother’s views.
Smith said that the need for indoor courts was “a no-brainer” but refrained from saying where the responsibility for building them should rest.
Almost inevitably, the world No 5 was asked about his views on independence, and whether they affected his commitment to playing for Great Britain.
He had addressed the issue at length last week, not to mention at regular intervals over the past decade, and yesterday restricted himself to a brief reply: “I guess we’ll see at the weekend.”
He was then asked if he understood why it might be an issue for some people. “No, not at all,” he said.
Once this weekend’s tie is behind him, the British No 1 will turn his attention to fleshing out his coaching team and finding a replacement for long-term friend and hitting partner Dani Vallverdu, who left the camp in January as well as compensating for the periodic absence of principal coach Amelie Mauresmo, who remains France’s Fed Cup captain.
“After the Aussie Open I spent the next three or four weeks with no coach and that’s something I need to get sorted so that when I get to the clay-court season I’m not in that position,” he added.
“I feel there are some things I need to keep working on all the time and when I don’t have someone there all the time it’s harder to do that. For me, it’s better to have someone around. I’ll try to make sure I do that for the clay-court season – that’s high on my list of priorities at the moment.”