Andy Murray says that Serbia’s choice of clay as the playing surface for their Davis Cup quarter-final at home to Britain in July could force him to reconsider his intention to play in it.
Murray, talking after the Wimbledon launch of his Andy Murray Live charity event, still hopes to play in Belgrade but acknowledged that he may be forced into a change of mind. The tie, which will be staged in the Tasmajdan Stadium, starts on 15 July, just five days after the Wimbledon final.
With the north American hard-court season and the Olympic Games in Rio following hard on the heels of the Davis Cup quarter-final weekend, it means that those playing in the tie would have to switch from grass to clay and then to hard courts in the space of just a few days.
All players find the transition from one surface to another a challenge and Murray in particular has always taken time to adjust to clay. Although he eventually reached the semi-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters earlier this month in his first clay-court outing of the season he was stretched to the limit by lower-ranked opponents in his first two matches.
In tennis terms the switch to clay has always been a challenge for the Scot, who has also suffered physical difficulties when playing on it. He eventually had back surgery because of problems exacerbated by playing on clay.
“I need to see how my body is first,” Murray said when asked if the decision to play the tie on clay might affect his participation. “From when I leave now to go away next week to Madrid it’s pretty much full on through until the Olympics, with a number of surface changes in a very short space of time.
“You never know how the body is going to react or how it’s going to pull up after those changes. I’ll just have to see how my body is. Hopefully I’ll be fine, but it’s going to be a tough few months and I think all the players are aware of that right now. The more surface changes that are put in there makes it that bit more tricky.”
Murray was surprised by Serbia’s decision. “I thought that maybe they would put it on a hard court,” he said. “Obviously clay for us would be our weakest surface.”
Djokovic, whose major goals this summer are likely to be the French Open and the Olympics, was non-committal when asked – before the announcement of the playing surface – whether he would play in the quarter-final.
Playing on clay could mean it is less likely that Djokovic will compete, though Murray believes the reason for the choice of surface is the fact that it is the most unsuitable for the British team, who are the defending champions. He pointed out that in Britain’s last four away ties the home team had chosen clay.
“It’s more about making our team uncomfortable,” Murray said. “It’s the surface I’ve had my worst results on - Dan Evans and my brother as well. That’s the reason for Serbia putting it on clay. It’s completely understandable, but it’s tricky for Novak changing surfaces at that time too.”
He added: “On clay the movement is the thing that is difficult. I feel like it’s not necessarily something I’ve mastered, I’m still not perfect at moving on clay, though last year I worked on it so much and at the start of this clay-court season it’s improved a lot.”
Murray is travelling to Majorca this weekend to practise on clay for a few days with Milos Raonic and then with Rafael Nadal, who beat the Scot in the semi-finals in Monte Carlo and went on to win the title.
"I think Rafa was the best player that week if you look at the week as a whole,” Murray said. “I think the first two matches I played there were not good and then for me the last two were very positive.”
Asked about Novak Djokovic’s surprising defeat in Monte Carlo to Jiri Vesely, Murray said: “We have to wait and see the next few weeks whether that has any impact on his long-term form or short-term form.
“It’s a match you wouldn’t have expected him to lose, but he had been in the final of every event for 14 or 15 months in a row. At some stage that’s going to come to an end. I would imagine when he plays in Madrid, he will play well again and be back to playing his best pretty soon.
“After the run he had been on, I think it’s normal and understandable to have a match where you don’t play your best or feel your best. He played a lot of matches like that over the last year, where he’s maybe not played his best and come through. That day he wasn’t able to turn it around.”
The Madrid Masters starts on Sunday week and is followed immediately by the Rome Masters. There is then a one-week break before the start of the French Open on 22 May.
Independent News Service