While Great Britain would dearly love to have Andy Murray leading their Davis Cup challenge against Russia in Coventry this weekend, the Scot, who is resting in Miami, has turned his attention further east, as his management team make a major push into the biggest untapped market in sport.
Murray, reinstated as world No2 after a brief glimpse at the top of the mountain towards the end of 2009, is recovering from the exertions of beating David Ferrer in the Miami Open final last Sunday before heading to Monte Carlo in the next few days and the start of the European clay-court season.
Last night, XIX Entertainment, which guides his career off court, announced an intriguing new partnership with Globosport, the company run by the Indian doubles specialist Mahesh Bhupathi, to explore business opportunities in China and India.
Bhupathi set tennis buzzing this week when it was confirmed he is chasing the signatures of the world's leading players to take part in an IPL-style tennis tournament across Asia over three weeks in the November-December break at the end of the year. Murray, it emerges, is at the heart of those plans – although, if his playing schedule grows, he might now be even further away from playing in the Davis Cup for his country.
Murray is the first signing of XIX Globosport, a company XIX's founder, Simon Fuller, has formed with Bhupathi. They said in a joint statement they are exploring "the burgeoning sports and entertainment opportunities in India and the Middle East".
The impetus has come from Fuller, who recently did a major deal with IMG for David Beckham in China. "He has a vision for this part of the world and we are excited that he has chosen to partner us," Bhupathi said. They have also brought on board the tennis agent and former Tour pro Ugo Colombini, "to provide on-the-ground tennis support and specialist resourcing" for Murray.
Murray said,: "I believe a mix of Simon's experience and Mahesh's understanding of the sport will create the perfect team for my off-court interests and will allow me to continue to dedicate myself and focus on my goals on the court."
Meanwhile, Leon Smith's Great Britain squad will need the mercurial Dan Evans, a somewhat surprise selection ahead of Jamie Baker, to play near his best if they are to beat Russia in the second round of the Euro-Africa Zone Group One tie at the Ricoh Arena, which starts on Friday.
In the opening singles Evans, ranked 325 in the world, plays the world No80, Dimitri Tursunov, while James Ward (214 and Britain's No2 behind Murray) plays Evgeney Donskoy (60).
Evans is a dangerous player – to opponents, as well as himself, occasionally. So, it is at once curious and uplifting that Smith should turn to him again to be the catalyst for an upset after the young Midlands maverick performed so well for his country in two Davis Cup ties last year.
In trusting a young player with undoubted talent but sometimes wayward commitment, Smith has simultaneously had to disappoint Evans's exact opposite, the ever-striving Baker, who has spent much of his career battling illness and physical setbacks.
Smith informed Baker at a team dinner on Wednesday night, and he returned immediately to London.
Discussion inevitably turned to the absent Murray. Smith, conceding Russia would start favourites to advance to the 16-nation World Group play-offs in September, said: "It's ultimately Andy's decision. He can decide when he plays and when he doesn't play. But it's a good dialogue. I went out to Miami during his pre-season training and we spoke about it, talked about the tie, what the possibilities were, where we'd play, the surface."
As for dropping Baker from the lineup announced in the week, he said: "It was a difficult decision, but when you come here and you bring everyone together, you start to get a feel for the court, for the environment, as well as analysing the opposition, to think which match-ups could potentially cause an upset.
"And it's going to have to be an upset; that's what we're preparing for."
For the singles players, this is a big step up from what they're doing week in, week out. With James and Dan, they're they players we've got at our disposal who can do the most damage on that court out there."
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image: © Ian Dick