The prime-time fighter with the knock­out punch

The Herald - Sport - - TENNIS - STE­WART FISHER AT FLAN­DERS EXPO CEN­TRE

ANDY Mur­ray re­vealed he stayed up late on Satur­day night to watch the box­ing prior to land­ing the knock­out blow which floored Bel­gium in the Davis Cup fi­nal. Fight fan Mur­ray put his nor­mally metic­u­lous prepa­ra­tion at risk by watch­ing a live stream of Tyson Fury’s shock heavy­weight vic­tory against Wladimir Kl­itschko, but needed no ad­di­tional inspiration as he fired Bri­tain to their first vic­tory in the world cup of team tennis for 79 years.

The Scot put in a heavy­weight per­for­mance as he ran out a 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 win­ner against Bel­gium’s top player David Goffin in just shy of three hours at the Flan­ders Expo Cen­tre in Ghent to give Bri­tain an unas­sail­able 3-1 lead in the tie.

“I did watch the box­ing last night,” ad­mit­ted a some­what sheep­ish 28-yearold, who over­came Ruben Bemel­mans on Fri­day and joined forces with brother Jamie to beat Goffin and Steve Dar­cis in the dou­bles. “I was in bed prob­a­bly by 11.00pm. But I man­aged to find a stream of the box­ing on­line and I watched it. I al­ways get a bit ner­vous watch­ing box­ing, es­pe­cially heavy­weights. It prob­a­bly wasn’t the smartest thing for me to do.

“I’m ob­vi­ously happy to be part of a great week­end of Bri­tish sport,” he added. “But I didn’t need any inspiration this week­end. I didn’t need that from a boxer or any­thing else. I think that’s the case for all of the team. This com­pe­ti­tion, win­ning the event, for all of us was mo­ti­va­tion enough.”

While the Scot can now add his name to that of No­vak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal, Roger Fed­erer and Stan Wawrinka in a re­cent trend of world class play­ers to claim this ti­tle, oth­ers also took own­er­ship of a suc­cess which was one of the more re­mark­able in the 115-year his­tory of this tro­phy. One book­maker is al­ready pay­ing out on bets that they will win team of the year at the BBC Sports Per­son­al­ity of the Year Awards, un­sur­pris­ing con­sid­er­ing that when Leon Smith took over the cap­taincy in 2010 they were facing a play-off to avoid de­mo­tion to the low­est rung of the com­pe­ti­tion. At nu­mer­ous points along the way, the jour­ney might have gone down a dif­fer­ent route, with the sense ev­ery­thing was click­ing into place this year only be­gin­ning to crys­tallise around the time of the 3-1 win against France..

While he made him­self un­avail­able for duty for a while, Mur­ray never stopped lov­ing this com­pe­ti­tion. It is only its tim­ing, of­ten im­me­di­ately af­ter the Grand Slams, which was prob­lem­atic. This one topped a decade of Davis Cup ac­tion for the World No 2, 10 years on from his de­but as a 17-year-old in a dou­bles rub­ber along­side David Sher­wood. “Al­ways when I’ve played Davis Cup, since the first time, I was un­be­liev­ably pas­sion­ate, and I loved it,” he added. “But also I know this team ex­tremely well. Be­cause we’ve been to­gether for such a long time, there’s a stronger bond be­tween us than there has been in the past. A lot of us are close friends. It means a lot to do it with them.”

While cap­tain Smith was tight lipped about his fu­ture, Mur­ray has al­ready given a com­mit­ment to be part of the team for the 2016 opener against Ja­pan in Birmingham. But if the stars don’t align per­fectly next time so be it. “Hope­fully we can win it again next year or we can go on to win Grand Slams and Wim­ble­don or Olympics and stuff,” he said. “But this will def­i­nitely be the highlight, or one of the high­lights, of all of our ca­reers. So we have to make sure we en­joy tonight and the next cou­ple of days be­cause I know how much hard work and ef­fort goes into mo­ments like this.”

Ward, a vet­eran of that first tie with Smith in East­bourne, who had been lined up for the fifth rub­ber, was re­lieved to find his ser­vices weren’t re­quired. “Ob­vi­ously I was wait­ing back in the locker room ready to play if needed,” he said. “Even when he was two sets up, I was still not want­ing to go out in case he [Andy] looked at me and snapped and thought, ‘he thinks it’s over al­ready’.”

While LTA chief ex­ec­u­tive de­scribed Mur­ray as “a war­rior”, Andy’s mum Judy was left hop­ing this tri­umph could be a cat­a­lyst for growth in the sport. “It’s been a great team ef­fort,” she said. “I hope Bri­tish tennis can build on it.”

I know this team ex­tremely well. We’ve been to­gether for such a long time. A lot of us are close friends. It means a lot to do it with them

MUR­RAY: The Scot was over­come with emo­tion af­ter seal­ing the tro­phy

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