Gamesmanship? Just good
Murray saves the crowd from an eyeful as he fights through pain in Davis Cup
This was the day we finally discovered what Andy Murray is not prepared to do in Great Britain’s cause, but only after he had taken his pain-wracked body to its threshold once again to keep hope alive with his 39th Davis Cup win.
Having spent more than five hours on court in losing for the first time in 14 matches in this competition on Friday evening, Murray had been on court for slightly longer in accruing the points that got his team back into the tie, in tandem with brother Jamie while gaining a measure of revenge over Juan Martin del Potro in the doubles and then in this reverse singles clash with Guido Pella.
A total of 10 hours and 10 minutes in The Emirates Arena spotlight, then and while a straight-sets victory over the world No.49 was, on the face of it, only to be expected of one of the finest players the sport has ever produced, attrition had meant the win could not be taken for granted.
All the more so when Murray left the court for a dramatically lengthy medical time-out early in what proved to be the decisive set, confirming that he was not only dealing with an opponent who had never lost a Davis Cup match and had dismantled his team-mate Kyle Edmund two days earlier, but was battling with a worrying groin problem.
Which is how we discovered where this man who spends his life coping with the scrutiny that comes with two-time Wimbledon and Olympic champion status draws the line as he made what fell just short of a public apology to Pella for leaving him waiting for eight minutes just after he had moved ahead in a set for the first time.
“The reason I had to go off is because I can’t get my nuts out on the court. I mean, I can’t do that,” Murray explained.
“So that’s why I had to go off the court, because the strapping had to be done very high up on my right leg and I needed to take my clothes off but, yeah, I would be annoyed for sure. I would be annoyed if that was me waiting.
“If you are the one sitting and waiting for someone who has gone off, either to the toilet or for a medical timeout, yeah, it’s frustrating.”
He justifiably noted that this could not, however, be interpreted as a case of seeking to disrupt an opponent’s momentum.
“Obviously I was in the driving seat at the time, I was in control of the match,” Murray pointed out. “But, still, I then broke the next game, held serve and broke. That was it.”
It was indeed and it was a match Murray had dominated to that point, demonstrating even greater understanding than previously of the impact of the exertion involved in these matches for the man on whom so much depends.
“I think this weekend I just accepted it better than I have in the past,” he said.
“I expected to feel tired, I expected to be in some pain this weekend, I spoke to my team about that. I knew it was going to be hard so my expectations were less.
“Sometimes I go into ties thinking it was going to be alright and at the end of it I felt horrendous. Because I accepted how I was going to feel I handled it okay.”
It seemed obvious that, given all that had gone before, Murray must view this match differently to the way he would normally approach a meeting with a player of Pella’s calibre, treating it more like one of those encounters with big-hitting servers like John Isner or Ivo Karlovic in waiting for chances to present themselves then raising the energy levels at those points.