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I need to regain my sharpness, admits Andy Murray

By Eleanor Crooks

Andy Murray will once again pull triple duty for Great Britain after giving the Davis Cup champions a winning start to their title defence.

Britain and Japan are tied at 1-1 after the first day of play at Birmingham's Barclaycard Arena, with Murray easing past Taro Daniel 6-1 6-3 6-1 before Kei Nishikori withstood a fierce challenge from Dan Evans to win 6-3 7-5 7-6 (7-3).

Murray's match was his first since becoming a father nearly a month ago and he was wary of committing to doubles as well as singles, but captain Leon Smith confirmed the plan is for the World No.2 to partner brother Jamie today.

In guiding Britain to last year's remarkable triumph, Murray played in all three rubbers in three of the ties, an experience that was extremely draining, but he is clearly prepared to go through the same thing again.

Smith said: "We will have a conversation about it and hopefully he feels good. The good thing is that even if he does feel that he doesn't want to play, we have got a very good guy in Dom Inglot ready to go.

"So I am relaxed. Andy and Jamie is our strongest team so it is great if they can play."

Murray has only taken part in one doubles practice session this week, but Smith said: "That is normal. He's played a lot of tennis in his life - it is not an issue."

The good news for Murray was his work-out against 87th-ranked Daniel was hardly taxing, lasting just an hour and 30 minutes.

He was given a hero's welcome when he took to the court and any early nerves were eased when he won the first 11 points.

Murray looked a little rusty at times and did not have to play at his highest level. Murray, who told the crowd the last few weeks since the birth of his daughter Sophia had been "the best of my life", admitted he struggled to concentrate at times.

He said: "It's very easy to start to think ahead. It's being able to deal with that and stick to your processes and your cues when you're out there. Because I hadn't played a match for a while, I wasn't quite as sharp. I just need to make sure I do that a little bit better in the next match."

Defeated Evans added: "The level was good. It was a tough match. He was too good.

"The crowd were excellent. Playing at home, it is special."

Nishikori confirmed he, too, will play doubles ahead of a clash with Murray tomorrow.

Ulster's Peter Bothwell could play a key role today as Ireland face Cyprus in a promotion decider in the Davis Cup in Tallinn after both teams won their groups.

Ireland came from a rubber down to beat Macedonia 2-1 with the doubles pairing of Sam Barry and David O'Hare taking their match 6-3 6-2 after the former had won his singles 6-3 6-4.

Bothwell sat out the tie but is in contention for a recall for today's win-or-bust clash with the Cypriots, who include former World No.8 Marcos Baghdatis.

Baghdatis beat Bjorn Borg's record of 34 consecutive Davis Cup victories earlier this week and will almost certainly face Barry in today's top singles rubber.

If Cyprus win that then Bothwell, if selected, will hold the key in either the other singles rubber or the doubles as Ireland attempt to win the tie 2-1 and secure promotion back to Group II of the Euro Zone.

Belfast Telegraph

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