Will Andy Murray ever turn out for his country?

By MALCOLM FOLLEY

Last updated at 20:13 05 February 2008


The five-star hotel rooms had

been booked, an extravagant

training camp established and an

elite private security force of

former military personnel hired

to guard against any residual

ill-feeling still festering in Argentine hearts

more than 25 years after the Falklands War.

No other nation would have budgeted for a

Davis Cup tie in quite a fashion, but then no

other nation has come to depend quite so heavily

on the tennis talents of just one young man.

Andy Murray

So when Andy Murray abandoned his plans

on Wednesday to join the rest of the

British team — including his brother,

Jamie — who were already hard at

work in their training camp on Chile's

Pacific coast and withdraw from the

squad to play Argentina in the nation's

biggest tennis occasion in four years,

the news caused consternation, confusion

and dismay.

Injuries happen, of course, but the

recurring strain in his right knee that

Murray blamed for his withdrawal,

and his desire to focus his energies on

the ATP tour and the Grand Slam

championships have forced many

observers to question whether

Britain's No 1 will ever represent his

country in the Davis Cup again.

And that is a serious concern for

those who value Britain's continued

presence in the Davis Cup's world

group after a four-year absence.

Davis Cup captain John Lloyd, in Chile

with the rest of his squad, said: "I really

feel sorry for Andy that he is not coming

out here. I really believe that Andy, fit

and eager, could have done something

special against Argentina next week.

"He is missing the chance to go into

the lion's den, to play in an environment

he might never experience in his

life. I think he had the chance to create

something that would have been

remembered. For Andy to pull out so

early, he must have a serious injury."

Two days before Murray withdrew,

he was filmed for his own website

playing an exuberant game of 'tennis

football' with three friends.

Twenty-four

hours after his withdrawal, he was training diligently at the National

Tennis Centre in Roehampton with his

latest coach, Miles Maclagan.

Nobody was suggesting that those

events suggested any ambivalence

over Murray's injury, for which he was

receiving daily treatment last week.

But 7,000 miles away, the abrupt

timing of his withdrawal from the tie

left brother Jamie and fellow squad

members Alex Bogdanovic, Jamie

Baker and Ross Hutchins feeling dismayed

and downcast.

Closer to home,

LTA chief executive Roger Draper

refused to take calls on the subject.

Why had Murray waited until the day

after the team was announced to withdraw?

After all, he had played just one

match in the past three weeks, losing in

the first round of the Australian Open to

the eventual runner-up, Jo-Wilfried

Tsonga.

Certainly, Lloyd had no warning last

week that he was about to lose his star.

When the captain arrived in Vina del

Mar on Tuesday, after a 90-minute drive from Santiago airport following a

marathon flight from Melbourne, he

had been anticipating meeting up with

Murray's manager, Patricio Apey.

The Chilean had offered his services

to the team during their stay in his

homeland and through to the tie in

Argentina. But instead of being there

to greet Britain's captain, Apey called

Lloyd from London the next day to tell

him Murray was pulling out.

Murray, in a statement issued by Apey

on Wednesday afternoon, declared: "I'm

very disappointed not to be joining my

Davis Cup team-mates in Buenos Aires

because I love playing for my country

and have always enjoyed the team

atmosphere of the Davis Cup."

But what he has done this past week

is to send an unmistakable message:

that his career on the ATP Tour will

take precedence over his

participation for Britain

in the Davis Cup.

That

is his privilege, of

course.

Taking care of

his own welfare has to be of paramount

importance, a factor reinforced by a

four-month absence from the game

with an acute wrist injury last summer.

The training camp in Chile, which

had been organised by Apey, was

underwritten at considerable cost to

the LTA to give Murray and the British

team the best possible preparation for

a tie that will be played in a 14,000-seat

stadium in Buenos Aires and a

cauldron of Argentine passion.

Only Murray's standing as a player

ranked in the world's top 10 could justify

such expenditure for one solid reason;

only Murray possesses the game, and

the hard-edged competitiveness, to

withstand the dual-threat of a partisan

crowd and players of the calibre of

David Nalbandian and Juan Monaco.

Without being disrespectful, Lloyd is

reduced to leading a British boys'

brigade into Argentina with Bogdanovic,

ranked No 187 in the world,

Baker (239) and new recruit Richard

Bloomfield, ranked 346th and with

total earnings of £740 this year, who is

flying out as reserve singles player.

Jamie Murray, ranked 36 in doubles,

will be now by playing with Hutchins,

who is ranked 94 in doubles.

As Argentina have won their last 10

matches at home — nine of them 5-0 —

Lloyd can expect Britain to be involved

in a relegation showdown in September,

shortly after the US Open.

Will Murray commit himself to playing

after a long, hard push through the

American hard-court season? This may

be dependent on the identity of Britain's

opponents and the location of the tie.

But perhaps it is worth recalling

what Apey told The Mail on Sunday

after Murray's American coach, Brad

Gilbert, whose £750,000-a-year salary

was funded by the LTA, had been

sacked in November.

"The reality is that over the next

three years or so, given the state of

British tennis, it is going to be more

difficult for Britain to be successful in

the Davis Cup than it will be for Andy

to be successful on the tour."

HOW THE TEAMS RANK

ARGENTINA


David Nalbandian (world ranking 10)


Juan Monaco (21)


Agustin Calleri (41)


Jose Acasuso (58)

GREAT BRITAIN


Alex Bogdanovic (187)


Jamie Baker (239)


Jamie Murray (unranked)


Ross Hutchins (unranked)

February 8-10 Live on BBC2

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now