Andy Murray, the McEnroe-in-Waiting, is skipping the British Davis Cup tie against Argentina. The thinking is that he's just coming off an injury-plagued year and after a rocky start to 2008 he wants to avoid a flight halfway around the world to play on clay against some of the world's best clay courters, just to switch back to hard courts again. In the pantheon of excuses for playing Davis Cup, I think that's a fair enough assessment for a player to make. It's not as if Britain has a chance against Argentina, a Davis Cup powerhouse with David Nalbandian (No. 9, Wimbledon finalist a few years back, beat Federer twice last year), Augustin Calleri, Guillermo Coria, Juan Ignacio Chela, Guillermo Canas (also beat Federer twice last year)...And if they all break legs they can rely on Jose Acasuso and Juan Martin Del Potro.
In other words, they are contenders to win the whole thing, while Britain just made its way back into the top tier of teams allowed to play for the whole thing.
Moreover, Andy Murray has a legitimate shot to be a top five player someday - if his body holds up and his attitude straightens out. But the pressure on him to top Henman - since he's got more talent than Henman had in his little finger - is immense. He's at a rocky stage in his career and his body has been fragile. The press is going to blast him any time he breathes wrong.
That's why I don't like hearing big brother Jamie ripping little bro publicly for skipping the tie:
"It's a shame he decided it was best for him not to come here," Jamie said yesterday. "It kind of affects the way we feel about him. I think from what I've heard he hasn't actually said that he was injured, it was more of a preventive thing. If he really wanted to push himself, he really could have come here to play the tie."You're saying the decision affects how you feel about him? I would never rip my infinitely more talented younger brother publicly, even if he was (hypothetically) moody, and had more talent than he knew what to do with. Jamie should be sticking up for kid brother and fighting it out in private if that's what he must do. It's easy for Jamie to play Davis Cup: he's a doubles specialist and the spotlight is on him in Davis Cup in a way it isn't the rest of the year. The pressure is all on Andy to come up with some kind of miracle and carry the team.
"There isn't really much to say. I'm here working hard for the team, trying to do the best I can and he's at home doing whatever he's doing." Asked if he would try to clear the air, he said: "I don't know, that's kind of up to him. I don't see why I should go to him or anything like that. From his point of view I guess that he doesn't have anything to apologise for as he's taken the decision not to come."
I gave Jamie credit last year for winning the mixed doubles at Wimbledon last year, even though Jelena Jankovic carried him to the title. It was a charming story though, seeing as how Jamie asked her to play doubles as a way of asking her out. No recent news on whether their relationship is still a relationship.
I understand where the team is coming from if they feel abandoned. Argentina has a whopping 19 players ranked higher than England's number 2, Alex Bogdanovic. Argentina nearly impossible to beat at home. They need to suck it up and take their inevitable lumps.
Now Andy, having fired Brad Gilbert, needs to get on with his career. He's already said he'll play the next round, which will once again find Britain one match away from relegation to the minor leagues. Perhaps he ought to call John McEnroe for a bit of coaching, seeing as how his sullen pouting between points, followed by flashes of brilliance during the points, mirror John so much.
Not to mention Andy's propensity for deliberately pushing people's buttons. The latest? He'd rather win the US Open than Wimbledon. This is another comment meant to remind people that he's Scottish and doesn't consider himself English so bugger off already. He's got some growing up to do and he might need Jamie's advice on a few things. But airing the dirty family laundry in public... I don't like it.