British team may miss out as Andy Murray prepares feats of clay

When Leon Smith, Britain’s Davis Cup captain, and his ambitious band of brothers attempt to push themselves towards the elite World Group of the competition next month, they may well have to do it alone – Andy Murray has other plans.

If Britain beat Belgium at the Braehead Arena on 6-8 April, they will qualify for the play-offs in September, the winner-takes-all battle for a ticket to the top division. But, depending on how well Murray plays this week at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, the world No.4 will probably stay in Florida to prepare for the clay season with his coach, Ivan Lendl. After losing his only match in Indian Wells earlier in the month, Murray has a lot of work to do and not much time in which to do it.

“It depends on how Miami goes,” Murray said. “It’s a bit like Indian Wells – I wasn’t planning on having that sort of week. You always plan for the best-case scenario and that’s finishing on Sunday evening with a win and then you go from there. I’ll have a chat with Leon next week – he’s coming over to Miami – about [the] Davis Cup and I’ll speak to the guys next week about it because obviously the Indian Wells week changes things a little bit because I didn’t play as many matches as I would have hoped. So, I’ll see how Miami goes.”

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That will not make Smith’s flight to Florida any more relaxing. He has until Tuesday week to name his team – and that gives him only a few days to try to talk Murray into playing. But Murray’s schedule is already packed. After Miami’s over, he has two weeks to prepare for the clay courts of Europe, a stamina-sapping couple of months that will take him to Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome before he gets to Paris for the French Open. A week indoors in Glasgow does not sit well in that calendar.

If Murray does decide to play, Smith will have some awkward choices to make in the doubles pairings. Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins are the nation’s top team – they are eighth in the race to the World Tour Finals and have world rankings of 24 and 27 respectively – but, if Murray wants to play with his brother, Jamie, Smith will have some juggling to do. And, as the Murray brothers beat Fleming and Hutchins at Indian Wells, Hutchins is prepared to be stood down in Braehead.

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“We’ve been quite successful since we’ve started together,” Hutchins said, “but Andy can light up a court like probably only three other players in the world and Jamie’s been top 50 for the last I-don’t-know-how-many years. If Andy plays Davis Cup and wants to play with Jamie, I think it would be wrong to be, like, ‘no; these guys are our team’. It’s a discussion that should happen amongst the captain and the coaches and Andy and do what is best for the team.”

As ever, the whole of British tennis revolves around Andy Murray – and, for the moment, he’s saying nothing.