The Nitto ATP World Tour Finals have begun, there is a Murray taking centre stage in the opening match. We have been here before. Except that this time, it was Jamie Murray, not Andy, in the spotlight – we knew that because he had his name on the back of his shirt.
And the clearly labelled elder Murray notched up his first win of the week together with Bruno Soares, beating Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Michael Venus of New Zealand 7-6, 4-6, 10-5. In theory, another win should see them through the first phase of the tournament but, then again, it may not; such are the mathematical complications of the round-robin format. The only way to avoid problems is to keep on winning.
It was not a great performance – both Murray and Soares played well at times, but seldom at the same time – but they fought hard, competed well and took their chances when it mattered in the two tiebreaks. It was a job well done to get the tournament rolling.
“Everyone is a bit more on edge in the first match of the tournament,” Murray said.
“No one wants to lose the first match, so there’s that sort of element to it. I think we did really well to win. It was a battle from the first game. Obviously I lost my serve so immediately we were kind of under the pump a bit. We had a few chances at the start of the match, as well, to break back.
“I think pretty much all the match we were playing a good level, playing good rallies. Those guys, too. I thought it was a great start to the tournament.
“I thought we competed really well, especially in both the tiebreaks, played a lot of good tennis when we really needed it. We’re really happy to win the first match. It’s a big advantage to do that, obviously.”
Of the four men on court, only Murray felt the need to have his name emblazoned on his shirt. It brought back memories of the Scot at the beginning of his career when, partnering Eric Butorac, he and the American had their nicknames – “Stretch” and “Booty” – on the back of their shirts. Alas, the letters used to peel off mid-match and many was the time that “Retch” and “Boty” would make their way into the next round. Sure enough, by the end of the one hour and 48 minutes of hard graft yesterday, the “E” was coming adrift but it just about hung on until the last point.
“I was doing it in the summer, too, the ATP events in summer,” Murray said. “But I don’t think it’s fair if everyone isn’t doing it, if Bruno isn’t doing it, as well.”
Apart from the fact that Soares cannot be bothered to iron on the letters to his clean shirts, he also knows his place in the partnership. He knows that in Britain, at least, the crowd is cheering for Murray; he is just the other half of the partnership. “He’s Jamie, I’m the other guy,” Soares said with a resigned smile.
But there was a serious point to all of this. Murray wants to promote the doubles tour and trying to be different, trying to stand out from the crowd, is a way of doing that.
“I think it’s good for the guys to promote themselves,” he said. “The tour has tried before [with names on shirts], but the problem is guys change shirts and manufacturers each season. It’s kind of difficult to keep it up unless you do it yourself, which obviously I’ve done.”
He will keep ironing those sticky letters to the back of his shirt this week and if he and Soares keep fighting the way they did yesterday, they may well keep winning, too.