Murray set to back Bedene for Davis Cup final team
Andy Murray strongly hinted that Aljaz Bedene would get his vote should he win his appeal and become eligible for Great Britain's Davis Cup final team.
Bedene has fallen foul of a rule change banning players from representing two different countries in Davis Cup.
The native Slovenian, who received his British passport in March, will have his case heard by the International Tennis Federation board in Prague on Tuesday.
By awkward coincidence, it is the same day GB captain Leon Smith must name his team for the final against Belgium in Ghent next week.
At 45th in the world rankings, Bedene is clearly Britain's second best singles player, and Murray was effusive in his praise after using the 26-year-old as a clay-court practice partner last week.
Jamie Murray said yesterday he would welcome Bedene "with open arms", and his younger brother appears to feel the same.
Murray, who opened his ATP World Tour Finals campaign with a 6-4 6-4 victory over David Ferrer, said: "My view is that the process has taken such a long time that it is awkward timing now.
"I think everyone thinks that. Whereas if this decision was made, like, seven months ago, we wouldn't even be having the discussion. That isn't his fault that it's taken such a long time. It's also not his fault that it's 10 days before the Davis Cup final.
"I'm not the one that makes the rules. If he wins his appeal and is able to play, then, if I'm the captain, I'm picking my strongest team to try and win.
"But that's Leon's decision. That's what he's paid to do. I'm sure he'll make the right one and give us the best chance to win."
Smith certainly is not short of options. As well as Bedene, James Ward, Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans are all in contention for the second singles spot.
Edmund and Evans pushed their cases by both winning Challenger Tour titles on Sunday but Ward has the most experience.
Murray said: "Obviously it's a good position to be in. It's better to have players that are coming in on form, which wasn't the case really in the last tie. I think that's what made things tough for Leon last time."
A capacity crowd of 13,000 is expected each day at the Flanders Expo, with the tie beginning a week on Friday.
Security is sure to be tight in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, with Belgium now thought to have been at the centre of the plot.
Murray said: "I think everybody right now is concerned about things. But I do think the best thing that we can do is to live our normal lives, not change too much, because then the terrorists are the ones that are winning.
"We need to go out there and do what we always do and try not to change too much. That's all we can do.
"I don't want to live my life in fear each time I step on a tennis court. So that's what I'll do."
On the court, Murray had expected to struggle with his timing early on against Ferrer having spent much of the build-up playing on clay.
He faced a break point in the first game at the O2 Arena but quickly grew into the match and increased the pressure on Ferrer, who was struggling with his serve.
The Spaniard fought off three break points in the eighth game, one with the help of HawkEye, but the third of eight double faults cost him two games later as Murray clinched the set.
The Scot played a poor game at the start of the second to drop serve but recovered by pulling it back to 3-3, and a second break in the 10th game brought him victory.
Murray said: "The first couple of games my timing was a little bit off. But I got it back pretty quickly, which was pleasing.
"If you're looking for a little bit of rhythm, he's also a guy who makes you hit a lot of balls. The rallies are often quite long, so you can get into a rhythm against him. So that was good.
"Returns were a little bit off today, especially on the second serve. That was the one thing I think I could have done better."
Rafael Nadal claimed revenge against Stan Wawrinka to set up a clash with Murray.
Nadal was making his return to the tournament after missing last year to recover from appendix surgery and he found himself up against the man who beat him at the Paris Masters a fortnight ago.
But this was not the same Wawrinka, with 35 unforced errors in 17 games from the Swiss a major factor in Nadal's 6-3 6-2 victory.
The fifth seed said: "I'm very happy to be back, the last year has been tough.
"I'm very happy to start like this, that's important for my confidence.
"The last couple of weeks I've been playing well. I have the same motivation, the same spirit to keep improving my tennis."