Andy Murray will agonise for another week before declaring if he will play in the ATP World Tour Finals in London just before the Davis Cup final against Belgium, which it was confirmed on Wednesday will be held on clay in Ghent on 27-29 November.
He said after winning his three matches in the semi-final victory over Australia in Glasgow at the weekend that, because a new back injury has flared, four days would not be enough for him to switch from the hard court of the O2 Arena to clay, but he did not expect the announcement to create such a stir.
The ATP, sponsors and fans who have bought tickets in anticipation of his appearing were taken by surprise and he immediately spoke with his advisers to review his end-of-season schedule. The odds are he will play in London.
Murray’s reluctance to decide quickly reflects the weight of importance he attaches to helping Great Britain win the competition for the first time since 1936, when Fred Perry won the last of four consecutive Davis Cups before turning professional. However, if Murray were looking for inspiration to double up, he might profit from the first of those four cup triumphs in 1933 – which broke a drought of 21 years.
The demands on time were even greater then, given slower modes of travel – although the physicality was a deal less intense. Great Britain won four European Zone ties on clay and grass that summer, against Spain, Finland, Italy and Czechoslovakia, losing only two singles, then beat Australia (conveniently included in the European zone because of their geographical isolation) in the zonal final at Wimbledon.
As Jon Henderson relates in his biography, The Last Champion: The Life of Fred Perry, Great Britain’s esteem in 1933 was wretchedly low the Davis Cup team described by the Daily Express as, “that poor, despised back number of lawn tennis”. They would not remain so for long.
Only a week later, with Perry and Bunny Austin to the fore, they beat the acknowledged masters of the day, the United States, in the semi-final on the clay of Roland Garros. Perry travelled late, after treatment to a shoulder injury, and had his final fitness test by hitting with Dan Maskell 48 hours before the tie.
Great Britain beat the Americans and Perry, who still had fitness issues, drew on reserves built up as the most rigorous trainer in the game to drag himself to the line for the title decider against France just four days later. In the second singles he beat Henri Cochet, driving the famed Frenchman into the dirt over five sets, then collapsing in the dressing room.
If the similarities are beginning to sound eerily similar, the story of triumph for Perry and Great Britain on the dreaded foreign clay ought to lift the Scot’s spirits.
The physicality, tempo and attention to detail in the game has changed markedly, perhaps, but the demands of going to Ghent’s Flanders Expo to play on a drop-in clay court in November are not that far removed from those that confronted Perry and his team-mates in 1933. They prevailed – and went on to help Great Britain rule for another four years.
This article was written by Kevin Mitchell, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 23rd September 2015 19.08 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010