Andy Murray has decided to continue work on his slow and difficult return to full fitness rather than play for Great Britain in the Davis Cup tie against Uzbekistan, which starts in Glasgow a week on Friday.
It cannot have been easy for Murray, who has embraced agony of mind and body all his career, to pass up what will almost certainly be his last chance to play in front of his Scottish fans, in the city where he was born. His prospects of playing Davis Cup again, in the shorter format to be introduced next year, are also uncertain. Murray was desperate to play, according to his team, but the medical advice was to continue rehab and, “think sensibly for the longer term”.
Murray’s Davis Cup captain, Leon Smith, revealed on Monday night: “I spoke to him yesterday at length. I’ve had good conversations. I k now he was really wanting to play some part of this tie. That’s genuine when he said it to you guys [in a press conference at the US Open last week] but he has gone to do more rehab [at his new training base in Philadelphia] this week.
“The feeling is in the short term he focuses on the rehab work [after hip surgery nearly eight months ago], as much as there’s temptation to be involved in our tie. I would have absolutely loved him to play.”
For this World Group play-off, the last under the old system, Smith has brought back Dan Evans, who has played some excellent tennis since returning from his one-year drugs ban. But Kyle Edmund, who has struggled with a non-specified illness most of the year, will not play – even though he is scheduled to take part in the Laver Cup in Chicago the week after the tie.
Smith said of Edmund’s controversial decision to choose an exhibition tournament over playing for Great Britain: “I guess the issue is that it’s a little bit further down the line. At least he can get a few weeks now of uninterrupted strength and conditioning work, fitness work, which obviously you can’t do if you’re trying to prepare for a Davis Cup match.”
Edmund, who went out in the first round at the US Open, was unusually coy about discussing the nature of the illness that has struck him down just as he has risen through the rankings.
The player said: “After Wimbledon I fell ill and this forced me to withdraw from Umag. Since then I haven’t been able to regain my original physical condition and my team have advised me to take this week off to focus on getting my strength and fitness back in order for me to play competitive tennis again.”
“I don’t know the ins and outs of the medical side,” Smith said. “It’s not my place to go deep into that. After such an explosive start to the year [when he made the Australian Open semi-finals and broke into the ATP world top 20], he’s had a few setbacks.”
As for the rehabilitation of Evans, he said: “History is in the past. He’s playing well. It’s astonishing how quickly he’s moved up the rankings. He’s already guaranteed Aussie quallies and hopefully he can keep making inroads over the next few months. Next year he’ll be looking to get back inside the top 100 and beyond again.”
He added: “We have to respect what Kyle and Andy have decided to do, and it is the right call for both of them. We go with what I think is a strong team. I think we can have a lot of fun, a lot of excitement, a lot of good tennis.”
Smith will choose from Cameron Norrie, Jay Clarke and Evans in the singles, with Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot playing doubles.
He said Andy Murray did consider playing doubles but the logistics of preparing for the tournament did not fit with his programme in Miami. As for whether the former world No 1 would fit Davis Cup into his 2019 schedule, Smith said: “It’s too early for that. The number one focus for him will be – as he keeps saying – by the time he gets to Australia next year to be in a really, really good place and have a great 2019, injury free.
“I’d imagine it would still include smarter scheduling, and what to play. But I hope he features again. I know he’s loved it, and I know it’s always one that he’s mentioned through his press conferences when asked about the new format, that he’d give it a go and see if it works.”