Andy Murray is set to once again pull triple duty for Great Britain after giving the Davis Cup champions a winning start to their title defence.
Britain and Japan are tied at 1-1 after the first day of play at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena, with the Scot easing past Taro Daniel 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 before Kei Nishikori withstood a fierce challenge from Dan Evans to win 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (7/3).
Murray’s match was his first since becoming a father nearly a month ago and he was wary of committing to doubles as well as singles, however captain Leon Smith confirmed the plan is for the world No 2 to partner his brother Jamie today.
In guiding Britain to last year’s remarkable triumph, Murray played in all three rubbers in three of the ties, an experience that was extremely draining, but he is clearly prepared to go through the same thing again.
Smith said: “We will have a conversation about it and hopefully he feels good.
“The good thing is that, honestly, even if he does feel that he doesn’t want to play, we have got a very good guy in Dom Inglot ready to go as well.
“So I am quite relaxed about it. Andy and Jamie is our strongest team so it is great if they can play.”
Murray has only taken part in one doubles practice session this week, however Smith said: “That is pretty normal. He’s played a lot of tennis in his life – it is not an issue that he has not had enough doubles practice.”
The good news for Murray was his work-out against 87th-ranked Daniel was hardly taxing, lasting just an hour and 30 minutes.
The world No 2 was given a hero’s welcome when he took to the court and any early nerves were eased when he won the first 11 points.
Murray looked a little rusty at times and certainly did not have to play at his highest level. Daniel said afterwards he had expected his opponent to hit the ball harder, which affected his timing.
The half-American Led Zeppelin fan briefly matched Murray in the second set, but the British No 1 served superbly and never looked in any danger.
Murray, who told the crowd the last few weeks since the birth of his daughter Sophia had been “the best of my life”, admitted that he had struggled to keep his concentration at times.
He said: “It’s very easy to start to think ahead. If someone tells you, ‘Don’t think ahead if you get up early’, you think ahead. That’s what happens.
“It’s being able to deal with that and stick to your processes and your cues when you’re out there. Because I hadn’t played a match for a while, I wasn’t quite as sharp. I just need to make sure I do that a little bit better in the next match.”
Murray’s victory set the stage for Evans to play his first match in his home city of Birmingham against Nishikori – ranked 151 places ahead of him. The 25-year-old, in the team after Kyle Edmund suffered a back injury on Wednesday, again played well above his ranking and had his chances in the second and third sets.
But he could not capitalise on twice being a break ahead in the third and there was to be no repeat of his stunning upset of Nishikori at the 2013 US Open.
Evans said: “The level was good. It was obviously a tough match. He played too good for me.
“The crowd were excellent. Obviously especially playing at home, it is special, but it’s just been like every other week with these guys. I always enjoy myself and they make me feel welcome.”
Evans may yet have a crucial role to play in a fifth rubber but, even if the tie is decided before that, keeping Nishikori on court for two hours and 44 minutes did his team a valuable service.
The world No 6 confirmed he, too, is likely to play doubles ahead of a showdown with Murray tomorrow.