It was not a classic but it was classic Andy Murray. As only he can, he managed to win a match that by rights he should have lost and so chalked up Britain’s first point at the Davis Cup finals in Madrid.
Even Murray admitted that he had no place beating Tallon Griekspoor, the world No.179 from the Netherlands, yesterday and yet he did 6-7, 6-4, 7-6.
The 23-year-old from Haarlem has only ever won two tour level matches in his life, but they were good ones: he beat Stan Wawrinka in Rotterdam last year and Karen Khachanov in the same place this year. And as he peppered Murray with his thumping serve and walloping forehand, it was clear that the Scot was in for a long morning.
Everything seemed to have conspired against the Scot. He thought he would be playing the wonderfully named Botic Van de Zandschulp, the Dutch No.3, and had prepared accordingly (Griekspoor was supposed to be struggling with an ankle injury). But when the team sheet was published an hour before Murray’s match started, there was Griekspoor’s name leaving the British camp to do some last-minute cramming.
Add to that the fact that Murray has a cold and that he is still trying to shed the extra weight he gained during his time off after winning the Antwerp trophy and he was not feeling at his sparkling best before during or after the match.
“I am obviously relieved just now,” he said. “I don’t think I deserved to win that match. I mean fought extremely hard at the end. He was dictating a lot of the points. I thought he served amazing. I just fought hard, tried to get one extra ball back at the end. I made a great scramble at 4-1 in the tie-break, and that was enough to turn it my way.
“I knew going into the match that I didn’t feel good, so I was nervous this morning beforehand. And when you’ve played for 14 years on the tour, I know how this sport works. It’s really difficult. Some guys in Davis Cup can step up and play well.”
He was two points from defeat at 5-4 down in the third set, he was 4-1 down in the third set tiebreak and yet, calling on all his experience and cussed refusal to give in no matter what, he came away with the win. It is just what Murray does.
“When you’re playing really well and stuff, tennis can be quite straightforward,” Murray said. “But going into a match where you don’t know your opponent really, and I wasn’t feeling particularly good going into the match, either [it’s not so straight forward]. But it is about finding a way to win, and I did that today. And I’m proud of myself because it would have been easy to have lost that.”
Whether he will play again today against Kazakhstan is up to the captain, Leon Smith. Murray had said on Tuesday that, ideally, he did not want to play every day from now on as the rest of the team must if they are to progress in the tournament. But whether he gets a day off or not is not his call.
“It’s not if I want to have a rest; it’s what is the best thing for the team,” Murray said. “I could say, Yeah, I want to play tomorrow’s match right now, and I have no idea of how I’m going to feel in the morning, which would be stupid.
“I’m not the captain. It’s not my choice or decision when or how, you know, Leon decides to go about discussing that with the team. He might already know right now what it is that he wants to do. And you know, we’ll wait to hear.
“But I imagine we’d chat about it tonight with the team and then make a final decision in the morning.”
On the evidence of yesterday, Murray could use a bit of a breather. He looked slow, heavy-legged and absolutely wiped out after the match was over. Those extra pounds amassed in the past few weeks while his new son slept, his wife got some well earned rest and he was left alone to his own devices with the biscuit tin are proving hard to shift.
“If you’re weighing four or five kilos more than you’re used to, that is probably going to affect how you feel moving around the court,” he said. “You go in the gym and lift a medicine ball up – that’s 5 kilos up, it’s pretty heavy. So I need to do better with that. And that’s my fault, that’s not anyone else’s responsibility, but I think that that can contribute as well.”
Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski won a nail-biter of a second set tiebreak to win the tie for Britain 2-1. They beat Wesley Koolhof and John-Julien Rojer 6-4, 7-6 to claim the winning point after Dan Evans had lost 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 to Robin Haase.