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Exhausted Murray still has case for the defence

By Paul Newman

Published 16/09/2016

Return: Andy Murray will clash with Martin Del Potro again, following their Olympic final epic encounter
Return: Andy Murray will clash with Martin Del Potro again, following their Olympic final epic encounter

Andy Murray has scaled more peaks than ever this summer but the world No 2's horizons are still dominated by mountainous challenges.

Having already reached his first French Open final, won his second Wimbledon title and successfully defended his Olympic crown, Murray's focus is now on another double victory.

Ten months after leading Britain to their first Davis Cup triumph for 79 years, he is spearheading his team's attempt to defend the title.

Murray and his colleagues will have home advantage as they take on Argentina in the semi-finals here at the Emirates Arena this weekend, with the winners to take on France or Croatia in the final in November.

"This is going to be a very tough weekend for us to win this one but all the players want to get through it," Murray said. "It's a big goal for all of us. Trying to reach another Davis Cup final would be a fantastic achievement.

"There have been so many big events in the last few months and it's been difficult to prioritise every single one, but at the end of a long summer if we get through this one we've got an opportunity to win again, so we'll give it everything."

The size of Murray's task grew significantly with the announcement of the two teams. Leon Smith, Britain's captain, selected only one doubles specialist, Jamie Murray, meaning that his main man is set to play alongside his brother on Saturday in between his two singles rubbers on Friday and Sunday. Kyle Edmund was chosen as Britain's No 2 singles player ahead of Dan Evans.

Meanwhile, Argentina named Guido Pella (world No 49) and Juan Martin del Potro (world No 64) as their two singles players. Even though Argentina's captain, Daniel Orsanic, agreed that Del Potro was, "without a doubt", his country's best player, the world rankings dictate that Pella is the nominal No 1 and will therefore meet his British counterpart, Andy Murray, in the first of the reverse singles on Sunday.

That in turn means the tie will open on Friday afternoon with a true clash of the giants between Murray and Del Potro. They last met less than five weeks ago in the Olympic final in Rio, where Murray won in four gruelling hours.

Del Potro has had an excellent summer following his return from wrist surgery. He beat Stan Wawrinka to reach the third round at Wimbledon and made the quarter-finals at the US Open.

"I will try to do a different match to what I did in Rio," the former world No 4 and US Open champion said.

"It's going to be really tough, a tough moment for me against Andy. It's never easy here but I am looking forward to doing a surprise. I will be fresh tomorrow and I know how my level is at this moment. I will try to be aggressive all the time."

Murray expects another demanding match.

"We obviously had a great battle in Rio," he said. "Four hours, lots of ups and downs, a lot of momentum shifts. That was mentally and physically a very draining match. I think both of us were pretty tired afterwards - and emotional. It will be another intense atmosphere here and I'm looking forward to it."

Murray, who admits that he needs a break from tennis, was excused from most of his media commitments on Thursday in the light of the death of his paternal grandfather, whose funeral will be held on Friday, with Jamie Murray in attendance.

Britain have met Argentina four times in the Davis Cup but have beaten them only once, on clay in Torquay in 1928. Argentina have won their last three meetings with Britain, in 1981, 1989 and 2008. Jamie Murray is the sole survivor from the latter, played on clay in Buenos Aires.

Murray, who arrived here fresh from his triumph in the US Open doubles, hopes that the atmosphere in the 8,000-capacity Emirates Arena will be a telling factor in the home team's favour.

"From a personal point of view, it's super-exciting for me to be playing here in Scotland, to play in front of a packed-out house with the incredible atmosphere that I'm sure will be the same as last year," he said. "That has some really strong memories for us."

Murray dismissed any idea that the British team might not be quite as hungry for success compared with last year. "We're here to win it again this year and I don't think we're any the less hungry because we've managed to win the trophy," Murray said.

SCHEDULE (GB names first): Friday (1pm start): A Murray v J M del Potro; K Edmund v G Pella. Saturday (2pm start): A Murray and J Murray v F Delbonis and L Mayer. Sunday (1pm start): A Murray v Pella; Edmund v Del Potro.

Talking points

How will Andy Murray hold up? : Murray finds himself facing another gruelling weekend at the end of a summer that has seen him win a second Wimbledon title and a second Olympic gold medal. It was clear in his quarter-final loss to Kei Nishikori at the US Open last week that the workload had taken its toll. The world number two is once again due to play on all three days and, despite Britain’s improved strength in depth, the team is still very dependent on their star man.

Juan Martin Del Potro's resurgence: The genial Argentinian’s return to the top of the game after wrist problems has been the feel-good story of the summer. Del Potro defeated Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at the Olympics before losing a four-hour battle with Murray for gold. He then went on to reach the quarter-finals of the US Open and will soon be back in the top 50.

Another chance for Kyle Edmund: When Murray chose to take a non-playing role for the quarter-final in Serbia, responsibility for leading Britain’s challenge fell to 21-year-old Edmund, and he seized it with aplomb. Edmund’s victories over Janko Tipsarevic and Dusan Lajovic sent Britain through to the last four. That was surely a factor when captain Leon Smith chose Edmund ahead of Dan Evans for the second singles on Friday.

Glasgow roar: Home advantage should be just that for Britain. Del Potro aside, Argentina’s team is made up of players who significantly favour clay and Britain have increased the speed of the court at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena with that in mind.

Belfast Telegraph

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