Stiff opener for rusty Murray… but mum Judy speeds on with Fed Cup role
It was a busy day for the Murrays, the family whose pre-eminence in British tennis has never been greater than now.
While national No 1 Andy kicked off his season with an arduous victory in the first round of the 310,000 Brisbane International on Tuesday, his mother Judy was announcing the first squad in her new role as GB Fed Cup captain and general driver of standards in the women’s game.
The outcome of both events was ultimately of little surprise, although the world No 4 was made to fight before overcoming Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.
Off to a winning start: Andy Murray beat Mikhail Kukushkin in Brisbane
Judy Murray’s Fed Cup appointment and that of Ivan Lendl as her son’s coach mean she is likely to be a less visible presence in her son’s career, although will never be out of the picture entirely.
Andy will not start working in earnest with Lendl until next week and the Czech was not there to see his new client survive a shaky start before overcoming one of the better players in the lower reaches of the top 100.
Murray faces Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller on Wednesday but it is all about peaking for the start of the Australian Open in Melbourne a week on Monday. While Murray ought to be the strong favourite this week to win an event at which no other top 10 player is present, he has been working harder than usual outside his matches to ensure he is in peak shape.
That, and the fact this was his first contest since pulling out of the World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in late November, meant a degree of ring rust and stiffness was always likely.
Hard fought: Kukushkin gave Murray a testing time in the first round
Indeed, he needed to recover from losing the first four games. Murray said: ‘He was hitting winners from all over the place. I was a little bit slow. I didn’t expect him to come out swinging like that in the first match of the year. You have to be mentally ready from the start and I wasn’t quite there.
‘So I need to improve on that and I played better towards the end. I started to move better, my body loosened up a bit.’
Judy Murray named Britain’s top four players in Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong, Heather Watson and Laura Robson for her opening match as captain of the national women’s team. They face a tough task to gain promotion to the elite World Group at a 15-nation gathering at Eilat in Israel early next month. British No 7 Tara Moore travels as a reserve.
Skipper: Fed Cup captain Judy Murray has named her first squad
The inclusion of Moore, a promising 19-year-old, is notable in that she became so disillusioned with the British set-up last year that she considered qualifying for Hong Kong, where her mother is from, but Judy clearly wants to ensure that she is embedded in the domestic scene.
Describing the team as ‘an exciting mix of youth and experience’, she will be hoping to avoid the strongest nation, Poland, when the draw is made next Monday.
It has been a mixed start to the year for Britain’s top women. Baltacha won her opening match in Auckland, where Keothavong was beaten in the last round of qualifying. Watson had to withdraw with an ankle injury while Robson’s first outing will be in the Australian Open qualifying tournament.