Former world No. 1 Andy Murray on Wednesday admitted that he was not in the best physical shape to open England’s Davis Cup Finals campaign after narrowly avoiding a shock defeat to unheralded Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands.
The 32-year-old had not played a competitive match since winning the European Open title in Antwerp, his first since returning after having had hip surgery in January.
He has also been dealing with an elbow injury and becoming a father for the third time — and it showed as the 179th-ranked Griekspoor, who played instead of Botic Van de Zandschulp, gave Murray a torrid time on Court 3.
Murray eventually scrambled to a 6-7 (7), 6-4, 7-6 (5) victory in a match that he admitted he had not deserved to win, although it proved crucial in the end as Britain edged home 2-1.
Afterward, he said that he was carrying extra weight around the court.
“When I was 25, it was quite easy. After a couple of weeks of practice, it was quicker to get going, whereas now it takes a little bit longer,” he told reporters. I’ve made quite big changes to the way I train off the court as well, but the weight and things like that, that’s my fault. I’ve never had that in my career before.”
“If you’re weighing four or five kilos more than you’re used to, that is probably going to affect how you feel moving around,” Murray added. “You go to the gym and lift a medicine ball up, that’s five kilos — it’s pretty heavy. So, I need to do better with that. That’s not anyone else’s responsibility.”
England captain Leon Smith said Murray’s win had vindicated his decision to play him.
“I was proud of how Andy managed to find a way. It obviously proved a crucial rubber win for us,” he said.
There has been high spirits in the England camp since arriving in Madrid, where they have been handed a comfortable group along with the Netherlands and Kazakhstan.
The players amused themselves on the eve of the tie by using phrases from the movie Frozen in their news conference.
However, Murray played down suggestions that they had taken their opening Group E matchup lightly, even if he admitted that the last-minute switch by the Netherlands to play Griekspoor had thrown him.
“We arrived here a week before our first match, which I think everyone considered to be pretty early,” said Murray, who also seemed to have a cold. “I was taking the match very seriously today, but when you have a child, maybe that becomes your priority for a time. Maybe I could have got on the practice courts sooner. A guy serving 180kph second serves makes things difficult.”
While the lack of atmosphere has been criticized at the inaugural 18-nation Davis Cup Finals at La Caja Magica, Murray said that he had no complaints so far with the new format, even if it lacked the intensity of the 2015 final in Ghent, when he inspired Britain to the title with victory over Belgium.
While Murray struggled to beat the 179th-ranked Griekspoor, Novak Djokovic cruised to a 6-1, 6-2 win over 73rd-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka, giving Serbia a 2-0 victory over Japan in Group A.
Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic had defeated Yuichi Sugita 6-2, 6-4 in the first match.
The winner of today’s series between Serbia and top-ranked France would guarantee a spot in the quarter-finals.
“It’s probably one of the biggest challenges that we can have in this competition: Playing against France,” Djokovic said.
Argentina routed Chile 3-0 on Tuesday, but lost to Germany by the same score on Wednesday after a doubles match that set the record for the longest Davis Cup tiebreaker.
Australia defeated Belgium to win Group D and take on Canada in the first quarter-final today.
Additional reporting by AP
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