Andy Murray faces a potentially nerve sapping, muscle stretching period at the end of the tennis season. Unlike last year though, this is not in a bid to qualify for the end of season World Tour Finals held in London at the O2 Arena. Murray qualified much earlier in the year for the usual end of season tournament for the top eight ATP players, giving plenty of time to contemplate his upcoming dilemma. Giving Shenzhen, Vienna & Valencia a miss (all the three titles he picked up in the six week rush to qualify, all entered as a wildcard) the British #1 has Shanghai, Paris and London as his last three tournaments this year. Normally, this would not provide any dilemma for the WR#3 as he relishes playing this last event (he has never won it). The difference this year is of course that exactly one week after the World Tour Finals and the hard court, the Brits have to prepare for battle with Belgium on clay in the Davis Cup final.
At the end of the semi final, in which Murray helped the Brits to the first Davis Cup final since 1978 by playing on all three days, the Brit hinted that he would look to skip the World Tour Finals to give himself extra time to prepare for the surface change to indoor clay that the Belgians have chosen. Murray admitted in press that his back had been troubling him during the semi final, but insisted it was not a reoccurance of the problem that had resulted in him undergoing surgery at the end of 2013. It had been evident to those watching that something had been troubling Murray during the tie, however being the professional he is, he did not let it effect his performance against the Australians.
Hearing the Brit say he may opt out of the end of year tour finals in London, Chris Kermode waded into the debate. He stated that once qualified a player must take part in the tournament unless they are injured, hinting too that there would be financial and point penalties and a potential ban for players that skipped if not genuinely injured. Although this is the rule, the opportunity for Murray and his team-mates to lay yet another Fred Perry ghost to rest by winning the Davis Cup is certainly the top priority for the WR#3. Perhaps Kermode should cast his mind back to last year when Roger Federer played the round robin and semi final rounds, then pulled out of the final (citing a back problem) leaving the tournament in chaos. Who did the tournament director get on the telephone to? and who agreed to drop everything and drive to the venue to play exhibition matches against Novak Djokovic then a doubles match with John MacEnroe, Tim Henman and Pat Cash. Not only did the Brit player do this, he waived the appearence fee he could have charged. Coming back to the place where only days earlier he had gone out to an embarrasingly one sided scoreline against Federer, even making a joke about having tired the Swiss out took courage and was plauded at the time by Kermode and all involved in the event. Roll forward to this year, when wanting to concentrate on something that would make British history again, it seems that Kermode is only thinking of the rules and not giving the Brit a break.
What would be the consequences of Murray playing the World Tour Finals and then having to change surface quickly. This is not good for a players body to change this quickly, which is why there is usually a week or two gap between the change of surface ( Roland Garros - clay, Wimbledon - grass), Team Murray however, know the Brit well and will be able to gear his recovery and training to cope with such a short turn around. Of course the Belgians will be hoping that Murray does not adapt quickly to the surface change and that he does play in London the week before, if Murray does skip the World Tour Finals, the Belgians will find themsevles facing a very fresh Murray and not what they are hoping for of a slightly tired one.
Whatever happens the end of the season has got a whole more exciting