By Ros Satar
- Andy Murray v Taro Daniel – First meeting
- Dan Evans v Kei Nishikori – H2H: Evans leads 1-0
BIRMINGHAM, UK – Andy Murray leads from the front as he starts GB’s defence against Taro Daniel, followed by home favourite Dan Evans against Kei Nishikori.
Britwatch Tennis: Full Draws and Schedules
Andy Murray v Taro Daniel – First meeting
Fans will be looking forward to see new father and World No. 2 Andy Murray back in action after a five week break. Few will forget his emotional message to his wife Kim after his loss to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open final.
Since the birth of his daughter, many things have changed for Murray – he is gradually becoming adept at changing nappies, as discovered the joys of now being a morning person, and admitted that outside of his time on court, he was missing home.
At the press conferences after the draw ceremony, he said: “Obviously this week, I haven’t seen her for a few days so that’s been tough. I’m just trying to keep my focus when I’m on the court on my tennis, and then obviously when I’m away from the court, my thoughts are obviously back home.
“[I]try and speak to Kim as much as possible and stay in touch. But yeah it’s not easy being away for the first few days away from her when she’s so young.”
Still the focus has to be on getting the first win on the board against World No. 87 Daniel. Hardly surprisingly they have not faced each other before, but the planning of the Davis Cup supporting team is nothing if not meticulous, as Murray explained:
“I’ve seen him play a little bit before. We watched a short video of all the Japanese players. I know roughly how he plays, but I’ll watch a little bit more.
“He’s quite tall compared with the other players on the team. He plays predominantly from the back of the court, sort of moves like the Spaniards, has spent a lot of time training over there, but we’ll watch a bit more tonight.”
The pressure, you would feel is on Murray’s shoulders, but playing in front a home crowd will lift him, as Daniel prepares to square off in from of the Davis Cup faithful!
He said: “Obviously I’ll be nervous but excited as well. I can expect a certain amount of noise but it’s going to be something I’ve never experienced before which is both scary but mostly exciting.”
Daniel is an interesting case – sat next to the now Bradenton-based Nishikori, Daniel has a laid back, distinctly more American drawl. Born in New York, before moving to Europe for his father’s business, Daniel joined one of the Spanish tennis academies at the age of 13, and as such is pretty comfortable on the dirt, but says he feels just at home on the hard courts. Like Murray he will look to build up momentum in a point and moves well on the baseline.
Of course Murray’s deftness and speed around the court makes this prediction an easy three-setter, although the sets may well be closer than the Brit would like.
Murray and Daniel are scheduled for 1pm at the Barclaycard Arena.
Dan Evans v Kei Nishkori – H2H: Evans leads 1-0
Evans could be an enigma if he was not so beloved to the Davis Cup faithful, who have stuck by GB through thick and thin after they slumped to Group II of the Europe/Africa Zone. With Murray sitting out a lot of these ties, it was left to players like Jamie Baker, James Ward and Evans to help drag GB out of the mire, and along with Ward was part of one of the best wins over Russian, coming from 0-2 behind.
There is no doubt that Evans has the raw talent, but at times when the reality of the lower levels of the circuit are all too real, Evans has lacked the consistency and drive to propel him far higher than his rank of 157 would suggest.
Still, during a very spirited run at the 2013 US Open, Evans put paid Nishikori in the opening round. Despite Evans deciding that he did not remember anything about perhaps one of the best wins of his career, the loss still resonated with the World No. 6.
Nishikori said: “I was kind of ready to play against Kyle, but I know [Dan] well. We both changed a lot [since the US Open] and I got better in the last few years. I’m sure we both play a little bit different.
“It’s not going to change much, I have to be focused and have to change some tactics but I try to play my tennis.”
He continued: “I think he played great tennis in the match, and me I was nervous, tight. I don’t remember much, but obviously I didn’t play good tennis that day. I know he can play good tennis… he beat me, so he can play against top 10 players. I will have to play great tennis to beat him.”
“He can be top 100 top 50 if he work hard and play good consistently. He’s not going to be an easy opponent.”
Evans at the moment is reaping the rewards of working hard, taking things tournament by tournament after getting over a knee injury. From 772 in the World in May 2015 to his current ranking of 157, he may not be able to put GB 2-0 up at the end of the day, but he can certainly give the visitors pause for thought when the reverse singles come around.
Evans and Daniel will follow Murray and Nishikori.