Andy Murray eased past his inexperienced opponent Taro Daniel in straight sets, 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 to give the defending champions Great Britain a 1-0 lead over Japan in the Davis Cup.
Heading into this opening match of the World Group first round tie the two players had never met before, but it was clear that the match-up was going to be a daunting task for Japan's number two. His current year to date on the ATP Tour is just one win and five losses, with just five main tour victories to his name in 23 attempts overall.
Disastrous Start For Daniel
The 23-year-old looked to be a bag of nerves at the start of the match in the Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham, losing the opening 11 points of the match, including two double faults behind his own serve. Murray, with a commanding 2-0, 40-0 lead on serve, looked to be in control. However,a series of points for Daniel allowed him to get to break back point. The British number one, not looking at his sharpest having had five weeks off, responded well to secure the hold.
Daniel found himself in more trouble on serve, an untimely double fault coming back to bite him once again as he dropped serve. A great start for Murray in his first match since becoming a father, moving on to take a commanding 5-0 lead in the opening set, winning 79 percent of points behind his first serve over the course of the set.
The Japanese number two fought well and was not giving up on the first set without a fight. From set point down Daniel responded to hold to get his first game on the board and extended his run of points to 0-30 on the Murray serve. The world number two made sure that he did not relinquish his advantage, winning four points in a row to secure the first set by 6 games to 1.
Closely Contested Start To The Second Set
Daniel's tennis was much improved at the start of set number two, playing far more aggressive shots and importantly cutting down the number of double faults and unforced errors. This resulted in the world number 87 managing to hold his opening three service games, locking him in at 3-3 against the former Olympics, US Open and Wimbledon champion.
Murray Makes The Breakthrough
The Brit became increasingly frustrated with his start in the second set, missing opportunities to get ahead on the Japanese's serve. The world number two finally got joy on return in the seventh game, capitalizing on winning the opening point and a double fault from the 23-year-old to secure the break of serve. Just 52 percent of first serves finding the mark and only a 50 percent win rate behind the second serve a key factor in Daniel dropping serve for the third time in the match.
In the ninth game, Murray looked to be even more aggressive when returning the second serve. His first attempted backhand cross court winner at 0-15 found the tramlines, but the warning signs were there. Another double fault, followed by a return winner and a lucky net cord secured a two sets to love lead for Great Britain.
The British number one's ascendency continued in the third set, holding, before breaking the Japanese number two's resolve on serve. This came after he hit an outrageous return winner down the line off of a body serve to break to love. Two aces in a row at the end of the next game made it 3-0 for Murray, the first rubber looking almost done and dusted.
Daniel Refuses To Lie Down
All credit to the Japanese number two for hanging in there and making Murray fight for the victory. The world number 87 held serve to love to get on the board in the third set and then pushed the British number one to deuce multiple times. A wonderful array of point constructions even helped Daniel to get to break back point, stinging Murray into action for his first serves to find the mark and get him out of trouble. The world number two escaped unscathed, taking a 4-1 lead.
Game, Set & Match Great Britain
And with that Murray made another decisive move on his opponent's serve, as Daniel saw a game point slip by, dropping serve to now trail 5-1. Sealed with an ace, Murray resolute on serve throughout as he closed out the match in straight sets 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 in exactly an hour and 30 minutes. 1-0 Great Britain.