Evans triumphs over Edmund but injury scare for Murray
Top seed clinches Battle of the Brits title against Edmund Former Wimbledon winner swears on TV in coaching role
Rankings do not lie, judging by Dan Evans’s victory yesterday in the Schroders Battle of the Brits final. But this week will still be remembered for Andy Murray’s latest return to elite tennis.
The younger Murray ducked out of yesterday’s third-place play-off, citing sore shins. And yet he was still on site at the National Tennis Centre in a new role as James Ward’s coach for the day, offering insightful tactical advice and numerous deadpan variations on “Let’s go!”
“I am OK,” Murray told Amazon Prime, when asked why he had chosen not to compete against British No3 Cameron Norrie. “This week is far the most I have done in the last seven months. My left shin has been an issue, and it was a bit sore after my first match. It was best not to risk it.”
“The results weren’t the important thing this week,” added Murray, who will play his next match in Washington in mid-August after he was pipped by Evans in Saturday’s semi-final. “I wanted to get matches and hopefully play some good tennis. At times, I played really, really well and at times my level dropped quite a lot. If I can get back to the level I was playing at in the first set [on Saturday] and maintain that for longer periods, I will be just fine.”
Murray could easily have been in yesterday’s final, in which case one suspects he might have played through the shin pain. On Saturday, Evans had received a giant slice of luck on match point, when a touch on the net-cord directed his wayward backhand drive back into the court for a clean winner.
It was a different story in the final. Evans had the match in his pocket from the start. Even though Kyle Edmund struck some huge forehands, as he had all week, Evans kept scurrying to and fro and dinking the ball back until he had earned a miss.
Evans agreed that he is probably in the best physical shape of his career, having hooked up with Tim Henman’s former fitness trainer Kieron Vorster early in the lockdown period. “I’m going to take a week off now, and then start to look forward to the restart [of the ATP Tour on Aug 14],” he said, after his 6-3, 6-2 victory. “When tennis resumes, it’s going to be pretty brutal.”
Surprisingly and unusually, there had been more tension in the thirdplace play-off, as Ward – inspired by Murray in his corner – pushed Norrie all the way despite a gap of almost 200 places on the rankings table. In the end, Norrie prevailed by a 6-3, 7-5 margin.
At one point, Murray became highly exercised, telling Ward: “You need more energy, because it’s so quiet in here. And you’ve got f-----two weeks in Virginia to sit on you’re a--- before you play again [representing Orlando Storm in World Team Tennis].”
From that moment on, we did not hear so much from him, perhaps because the producers were concerned that he might turn the air blue again. When Evans was asked whether he saw coaching as a likely path for Murray once his playing career finishes, he quipped: “Not if he keeps swearing on live television.”
Evans also suggested that this event, superbly organised by Jamie Murray and his team, could have a future as an annual fixture, played shortly after the US Open in the early autumn to help prepare British players for the indoor season.
There are no rankings points on offer, and the majority of the proceeds were forwarded to the NHS. But Evans said: “It’s up to the British tennis players to give a bit back. Next year, players might remember what happened this year. Jamie put on an event for us when we were all sitting around.”
Making a racket: Andy Murray (above right) used foul language as James Ward’s coach; Dan Evans (left and below) beat Kyle Edmund (below, left)