Andy Murray plays a forehand during his singles match against James Ward on day 3 of Schroders Battle of the Brits at the National Tennis Centre on June 25, 2020 in London, England – GETTY IMAGES
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Andy Murray’s proud record against his compatriots has come under threat this week, on the sweltering indoor courts of the National Tennis Centre, and on Saturday he will face another tricky challenge in the semi-finals of the Schroders Battle of the Brits.
In almost two decades of elite tennis, Murray has only lost to five fellow Britons: three of them on the second-string Futures tour when he was still a teenager, and two (Tim Henman and Kyle Edmund) at ATP events. On Saturday, Dan Evans will hope to join that distinguished list.
According to Murray, Evans starts as the favourite. “Look, all of these guys have been playing tons,” he said, after sweating his way to a hard-earned 6-3, 7-5 win over James Ward on Thursday night. “It is really not easy coming back after not playing any matches after seven months.
“The hip for me as well, mentally it has been a really difficult issue for the last three or four years. I would imagine Dan would go into the match as the favourite right now. My hope is that in a few months when we are back on tour competing, that I will be up at that level and feeling a bit more that I will be going into those matches expecting to win.”
Murray’s physical condition on Saturday afternoon will be an unknown – probably even to the man himself. He came off court against Ward admitting that “I was feeling my hip a little bit”, but added that the discomfort had not affected his movement. Still, given that his last competitive outing before this event had come against Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands on November 20, to play three matches on successive nights was always going to be painful.
Evans, meanwhile, has looked sharp and strong in three straight wins, even if he needed a super tie-break to squeeze past the unheralded Ryan Peniston on Friday. Surprisingly, he has never previously faced Murray in anything more than a practice set.
Dan Evans plays a forehand during his singles match against Ryan Peniston on day 4 of Schroders Battle of the Brits at the National Tennis Centre on June 26, 2020 in London, England – GETTY IMAGES
Asked on Thursday whether he was surprised to see Evans flying as high as No 28 in the world, Murray replied: “With the issues he has had off the court (including a positive cocaine test in 2018) I would say he has done extremely well to get up there. Now he is there, he has a game that a lot of guys won’t like playing against. He will give himself opportunities to get higher in the rankings because he will go out there and compete every single week.”
On Friday, Cameron Norrie eased past Paul Jubb by a 6-0, 6-2 margin to claim the final semi-final spot.
In other tennis news, there have been two more positive tests associated with the Adria Tour fiasco in the Balkans. Not only has the former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic – who is now Novak Djokovic’s coach – contracted Covid-19, but so has the driver who was transporting the players around in Zadar, the Croatian city where the final had to be abandoned last weekend.
Finally, the 2020 Davis Cup finals week has been cancelled, it was announced on Friday, along with the Fed Cup. The event had been scheduled for November in Madrid.
Saturday’s order of play, starting at 1pm
First singles SF: Andy Murray v Dan Evans
Second singles SF: Cameron Norrie v Kyle Edmund
Doubles final: Dan Evans and Lloyd Glasspool through but one team not yet confirmed