Games­man­ship? Just good

Mur­ray saves the crowd from an eye­ful as he fights through pain in Davis Cup

The Herald - Herald Sport - - DAVIS CUP - KEVIN FER­RIE

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.

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