Andy Murray is not only a hard act to follow, he is an extremely hard taskmaster.
Dan Evans had barely had time to celebrate his heroics at Britain’s Davis Cup tie, winning the fifth and final rubber against Russia on 7 April and putting Britain through to the World Group play-offs, before the Scot was demanding that the world No 322 work harder, travel further and do more.
Murray watched the last day of the tie from his Miami home, watching as much as he could in between practice and training sessions to get himself ready for the clay court season. And he was impressed with what he saw – it has been 83 years since Britain came back from a 2-0 deficit to win a Davis Cup tie and Evans’s final effort to beat Evgeny Donskoy was worth watching. Even so, Evans was the first to admit that he does not work and train hard enough and that he allows himself to be distracted – hence his current ranking.
The Englishman has only ventured off British soil once in the past 12 months and, even then, he only went as far as Ireland and managed to win just one match. He prefers life at home where, unfortunately, the attractions of friends and a social life are greater than those of another trip to the gym or the practice court. For Murray, who left home at 15 to train in Spain and who has lived out of a suitcase ever since, this was not good enough.
“I think for someone like Dan, all 18 of his results this year have come within the UK and Ireland,” Murray said. “He doesn’t like travelling much. I never minded the travelling from a young age. Then when I went to Barcelona, I saw a lot of the top players practising. I got to practise with a lot of them. I went to a few Davis Cups with Tim and Greg, as well, when I was pretty young. It would have been around 15 or 16 when I realised how much time you had to spend on the court. It wasn’t until I got actually onto the tour when I was 18, 19 that I realised how much work I needed to do physically to be able to compete with the best players.
“It’s a lifestyle that you have to decide: I want to do this. And, yeah, if Dan wants to, he’d improve. But you also have to remember that that [Davis Cup] court is specifically for his game, as well. If you come and play on the clay courts and on the slower hard courts, it’s a different game, too, where you need to be physically stronger, you need to have better patience on the court, as well.”
That said, Murray was still impressed with the way the team fought back and turned the tie around. The win put Britain through to play Croatia away in September, a tie that Murray has committed himself to playing. With Murray in harness and the rest of the team playing as they did in Coventry ten days ago, it is a very winnable tie.
Davis Cup, though, is far from Murray’s thoughts this week. Today he will play his first clay court match of the season as he takes on Edouard Roger-Vasselin at the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters. In theory, the world No 81 ought to be a simple introduction to life on the red dirt but Roger-Vasselin is already in the winning groove having come through two rounds of the qualifying competition and having beaten Robin Haase in the first round proper. By contrast, Murray has not played a competitive match on the red stuff since losing to David Ferrer in the quarter-finals of the French Open last summer.
Novak Djokovic is just pleased to be able to stand up on the clay at the moment. He sprained his ankle during Serbia’s Davis Cup tie against the United States ten days ago and left it until the last minute yesterday before deciding whether to play in Monaco. An MRI scan revealed no serious damage to the joint and, now that Djokovic is a Monte Carlo resident, he felt obliged to try his luck at his home-from-home event. “If I wasn’t here in Monaco it would be very likely that I wouldn’t play,” said the Serb, who is scheduled to play Mikhail Youzhny today.
In yesterday’s action, eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia suffered another early exit when he was beaten 7-6, 6-1 by Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in the second round.
World No 10 Tipsarevic, who has never made it past the third round at the claycourt Masters series event, extended his poor win-loss record to 2-6 since he reached the Australian Open last 16 in January.
The 21-year-old Dimitrov, regarded as one of the most gifted prospects on the tour, recovered from a break down in the first set then easily prevailed in the tie-break, wrapping it up with a subtle backhand pass.
The 34th-ranked Bulgarian then cruised to his first win of the season over a top-ten player to reach the last 16.