By Ros Satar
- Andy Murray def. Taro Daniel 6-1 6-3 6-1
- Will face World No. 6 Kei Nishikori in the first of the reverse singles on Sunday
BIRMINGHAM, UK – Andy Murray put GB on the road to the defence of their Davis Cup crown with a straight sets win over Taro Daniel.
Britwatch Tennis: Full Draws and Schedules
Although it was not quite ‘Daniel in the Lion’s Den’, the roar of the British crowd welcoming Murray back to start GB’s campaign might have intimidated the visitor a little in his opening service game, throwing in two double faults, but we also saw early glimpses of how patient he could be.
A brief lapse from the Brit on the way to a 3-0 lead saw Daniel finally gets some points on the board, and a break point no less, before normal service was resumed.
Although Daniel was beginning to get a little more comfortable, at least managing to salvage a game, it wasn’t enough to stop Murray getting the first set at a trot.
Daniel is not without some weapons, constructing his point before stepping up the pace of a forehand, and it was admitted prior to the match that the court surface really hadn’t brought the GB team any advantages.
Certainly Daniel looked to have got a handle on his range, taking the first game of the second set very comfortably, while at times Murray looked a little rusty. That being said, it was Murray who took the all important break advantage in the second set, and despite looking annoyed with himself at times, he had the second set wrapped up for about an hour’s worth of effort.
At times though, resorting the drop shots that made the entire arena either collectively hold their breath or will the ball over, he found himself left stranded watching as Daniel dashed to retrieve. When finally he unstuck his legs to move, he delivered the kind of passing shot we are more accustomed to seeing, as he closed in for a double break cushion.
Daniel, with his laid back transatlantic drawl admitted that the early double faults had dented his initial excitement when he took to the court.
He said, after the match: “A couple of double faults really hurt my motivation when I went into the court, and that made me really nervous. And obviously [against] the second best player in the world. If you don’t do your best, it’s [going to] slip away really quickly, and that’s what happened in the first set.”
Murray certainly felt that his return to the day job had started well, but admitted it was difficult to keep his concentration at times, especially after getting off to a quick start.
“I think because I served well it kept points short, and there were a few long points in the match, which was good for me. I felt like I moved pretty good. Maybe wasn’t perfect. But it was good for a first match, and pretty quick, so saved up enough energy for the weekend.”
He continued: “If someone tells you ‘don’t think ahead if you get up early,’ you think ahead – that’s what happens! So it’s being able to deal with that and sort of stick to your processes and your cues when you’re out there. Because I haven’t played a match for a while , that wasn’t quite as sharp so I just need to make sure I do that a little bit better in the next match.”
It is fair to say that it was a foregone conclusion that he would get the defending champions on the board, Daniel also showed that should things come to a fifth rubber, he could well be a force to be reckoned with.
Murray however was hopeful that if things went to a decisive fifth rubber, Dan Evans could pull off the win.
He explained: “I actually watched last night the match they played against each other in Vancouver last year. It was 7-6 in the third for Dan. Daniel was up 5-0 in the third and Dan managed to come back and win that one so mentally that will be still in the back of his head a little bit if they play on Sunday.
“Dan’s capable of winning that match. When he plays well, you know he’s a very very tough guy to win against. He has a very different game style and I think a game style that Daniel won’t like. He has a lot of variety, plays a different sort of game, comes to the net, doesn’t give you much rhythm, so think it’s a good match up for Dan.”
The reverse singles starts at 1pm on Sunday.