Davis Cup: Andy Murray ensures a comfortable start to Great Britain's defence of title
Andy Murray got Great Britain's defence of their Davis Cup title off to a winning start with a straightforward victory over Japan's Taro Daniel in Birmingham.
The Barclaycard Arena, which was not quite full, gave the world number two a hero's welcome following his extraordinary efforts in ending Britain's 79-year wait for a 10th title last year
The match marked Murray's return to competitive tennis after a month-long break during which his daughter Sophia was born.
He was understandably not quite at his best but he did not need to be against 87th-ranked Daniel and needed only an hour and a half to seal a 6-1 6-3 6-1 victory and give Britain a 1-0 lead.
Murray said of his reception: "It was amazing, unbelievable support today.
"The last few weeks have been the best of my life. It has been really special. I thought I played a good match. I served well and I moved well so it was a nice start."
If the Scot was a little nervous, that was nothing compared to his opponent, for whom this was by some distance the biggest match of his life.
Daniel had talked, in the California drawl picked up from his American father, of making sure he enjoyed the occasion but fun was the last thing he was having as two bad double faults contributed to him losing the first two games to love.
He stopped the rot after 11 points and even created a break point in the third game, Murray's rustiness showing in a couple of missed volleys, but on the whole it was one-way traffic.
Daniel saved a set point to avoid the dreaded bagel but Murray served it out with only 28 minutes on the clock.
Daniel had been excited to learn of Birmingham's links to his favourite rock band Led Zeppelin and said he would love to hear 'Dazed and Confused' played on court before realising the negative connotations for his own performance.
The good news for the 23-year-old was there was far less of that at the start of the second set.
Daniel has spent most of the last decade living in Spain and it shows in his dogged baseline game, but his resistance was broken again as Murray moved 4-3 ahead.
And the set was decided on a bit of luck the Scot did not need as the ball dropped off the top of the net for a winner.
There was nothing lucky about the fizzing groundstrokes that brought him a break for 2-0 in the third, which was a good sign as Murray will certainly need to step things up for Sunday's potentially-decisive clash with world number six Kei Nishikori.
He was forced to save only a second break point of the match to make it 4-1 but swiftly wrapped things up thereafter, sealing victory with his 15th ace.
Belfast Telegraph Digital