Andy Murray is set to 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, honestly, 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 as well.
“So I am quite relaxed about it. 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 pretty normal. He’s played a lot of tennis in his life – it is not an issue that he has not had enough doubles practice.”
The good news for Murray was his work-out against 87th-ranked Daniel was hardly taxing, lasting just an hour and 30 minutes.
The world No 2 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 certainly did not have to play at his highest level. Daniel said afterwards he had expected his opponent to hit the ball harder, which affected his timing.
The half-American Led Zeppelin fan briefly matched Murray in the second set, but the world No 2 served superbly and never looked in any danger.
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 had struggled to concentrate at times.
He said: “It’s very easy to start to think ahead. If someone tells you, ‘Don’t think ahead if you get up early’, you think ahead. That’s what happens.
“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.”
Murray’s victory set the stage for Evans to play his first match in his home city of Birmingham against Nishikori – ranked 151 places ahead of him.
The 25-year-old, in the team after Yorkshireman Kyle Edmund suffered a back injury on Wednesday, again played well above his ranking and had his chances in the second and third sets.
But he could not capitalise on twice being a break ahead in the third and there was to be no repeat of his stunning upset of Nishikori at the 2013 US Open.
Evans said: “The level was good. It was obviously a tough match. He played too good for me.
“The crowd were excellent. Obviously especially playing at home, it is special, but it’s just been like every other week with these guys. I always enjoy myself and they make me feel welcome.”
Evans may yet have a crucial role to play in a fifth rubber but, even if the tie is decided before that, keeping Nishikori on court for two hours and 44 minutes did his team a valuable service.
The world No 6 confirmed he, too, is likely to play doubles ahead of a showdown with Murray on Sunday.
Naomi Broady will play in her first career WTA Tour semi-final after seeing off third seed Sabine Lisicki at the BMW Malaysian Open.
The British No 3 prevailed 7-6 (7/4) 1-6 7-5 in a contest which last more than two-and-a-quarter hours in Kuala Lumpur.
Broady had a break point in the first game but Lisicki held and went on to establish a 2-0 lead.
Broady broke back and although she dropped her serve in the ninth game she levelled matters once more and prevailed in a tense first set tie-break.
The second set was one-way traffic as Lisicki found a groove and powered through, but Broady recovered in the third, saving three break points to go through.
Broady will now face Eugenie Bouchard after the Canadian sixth seed breezed past Cagla Buyukakcay 6-1 6-4.
On the other side of the draw, second seed Elina Svitolina rallied for a 1-6 6-1 6-1 win over Kristina Kucova to see up a meeting with qualifier Lin Zhu, a 6-3 6-4 winner over Qiang Wang.
Top seed Sara Errani was dumped out of the Abierto Monterrey Afirme in the second round by Estonian Anett Kontaveit. Italian Errani was beaten 6-1 6-3 in under an hour by the world No 91.
Novak Djokovic was back in typically dominant form in Serbia’s Davis Cup first-round clash with Kazakhstan in Belgrade.
The world No 1 wrapped up a routine 6-1 6-2 6-3 win over Aleksandr Nedovyesov.