Leon Smith: I'd love Murray in Davis Cup but rest best now
Leon Smith would dearly love to have Andy Murray '¨playing in his Davis Cup team in Ottawa next month '“ who wouldn't? '“ but after the world No 1's shock defeat to Mischa Zverev in the fourth round of the Australian Open on '¨Sunday, he thinks it might be better if he didn't.
Smith will name his squad today, but whether he lists Murray on the team sheet or not, it does not matter – he can always make changes later. What matters to Smith is that Murray recovers quickly from his loss and stays physically fit to maintain his position at the top of the rankings.
“I can name or not name him. Doesn’t matter,” Smith, the team captain said. “You can still change two out of the team up until Thursday morning [of the tie].
“I think the Davis Cup is a really good way of getting over those defeats: we’re all friends, it’s a really good week. But the matches are still very, very draining, though.When all’s said and done, playing best of five set tennis, it doesn’t matter who it’s against, it’s still tough, it’s still a lot of time on court in a pressure situation. He has to weigh up what’s right for him.
“To be honest, the best thing for his body is probably not to play, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong,
“I’d love him to play. But, for his own good, it’s better for him to rest up and train and get ready for this next period, because there won’t be much time the rest of the year and this might be a really good time to do it. Because once the Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami tournaments are done [in February and March], then you hit the clay season and the grass season, there ain’t much time. So this is probably the best time.”
Smith, pictured,has known Murraysince the Scot was a spindly lad with lots of potential and big ambitions. He knows him better than most people on the circuit. And he knows that Murray will get over Sunday’s defeat, even if it may take a while.
“The loss will be really tough to take,” he said. “His record in slams is unbelievable. He’s No 1 in the world, he was one of the favourites here and he’s out in the last 16 – and it’s going to hurt. But, once he gets his head around it, and once he gets enough people reminding him he’s still No1 in the world – he’s grown that gap even more this week – he can puts some distance between himself and the rest over the coming months with Indian Wells, and Miami in particular.
“He will be reminded enough times by those round him of what a run he’s on. It’s one match. It’s a sore one just now, but he’ll come back.”
As the tournament recovered from Murray’s loss, which came hard on the heels of Novak Djokovic’s departure in the second round, the general consensus of opinion was that it was not a catastrophe. Murray’s record in Melbourne is rock solid – five finals reached – even if he has never won the title. And even world No 1s are entitled to have a bad day.
Jonas Bjorkman, who was part of Murray’s coaching team in 2015, was surprised by the upset but not too concerned about the result.
“Novak and Andy have showed us so many times how good they are, so we are surprised,” he said. “Out of 100 matches, they play high quality in 99 of them and that one match out of 100 we are all surprised because they set such a high standard. That’s very impressive. That’s why we have these five guys that have been dominating the tennis for so many years now.
“Zverev had to play the best match of his life, even though Andy didn’t play his best tennis, that’s how good they are. It’s good to see they are human as well, that they can have an off-day. But everyone is surprised he didn’t hit the passing shots as clean or returning as well but they are human.”