Bates stands by Murray despite Swiss thrashing

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The Independent Online

Both players then left to compete in this week's ATP tournament in Bangkok, Federer as the No 1 seed, Murray holding the seventh wild card of his rookie year.

With the contest between Switzerland and Britain already decided after the Swiss won Saturday's doubles rubber to take a 3-0 lead, Federer and Murray sat on the team benches yesterday, watching the Swiss complete a whitewash in the "dead" matches. George Bastl beat David Sherwood, 6-3, 6-0, and Stanislas Wawrinka defeated Alan Mackin, 7-5, 7-6.

It was the nation's first zero since Tim Henman made his singles debut in 1995. We now wait for Thursday's draw to see where the Euro-Africa Zone takes Britain next year.

Wawrinka, aka Stan the Man, put the kibosh on Britain's strategy by beating Murray in straight sets on Friday. The plan was to counter Federer's superiority by attacking the weaker Wawrinka, who proved to be stronger than Murray on the day.

Federer, having spat out Alan Mackin, the morsel tossed to him in the opening singles, then partnered Yves Allegro to victory against Greg Rusedski and Murray in the doubles, 7-5, 2-6, 7-6, 6-2.

It was a lively affair. Rusedski lost his temper over a couple of net-cords that did not register, and Murray drew admiration with his returning and his touch play, although too many of his first serves landed low in the net.

This is all part of the learning process, of course, and Murray is learning fast. As Jeremy Bates, Britain's captain, said: "You see a lot of talented 18-year-olds, but the thing that makes a difference is the mind. He's got one of the strongest minds for somebody of that age. I think he's very mature."

Murray is due to play Bastl in the first round in Bangkok on Wednesday, the Scot having defeated the Swiss on his Wimbledon debut, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.

"I played well against him the last time," Murray said, "but since Wimbledon he's played really well and had some good wins. He beat [Dominik] Hrbaty in Indianapolis. So it's going to be a tough match. I'm going to have to play well."

Should Murray prevail, a win in the second round, against either Robin Soderling, of Sweden, or the Czech Robin Vic, would guarantee Murray a place in the world's top 100. "I've had two matches where, if I'd won them, I'd be in the top 100, so hopefully this time I'll be able to do it," he said.

If he does, he will be able to add a bonus to his prize-money. "When we were coming back from [the Davis Cup-tie in] Israel, we were talking about who was going to get into the top 100 first, and Greg [Rusedski] said we should have a bet on it," Murray said. "So me, Alex [Bogdanovic] and Dave [Sherwood] decided to bet.

"We put our money in, and then Jeremy [Bates] said he would double the bet if somebody did it by the end of the year. It's not too much money. It's worth it, though."

At which point Bates interjected: "Not too much? It's about £400."

Bates would happily pay it. "Andy's playing at a different level now," he said. "His ranking is almost at the point where he's going to be getting directly into Tour events. He's ready for that. I think he's proved that over the last months, having played lots of players already at that level, and having played Master Series tournaments and Grand Slams, and won matches at all those levels.

"He's clearly at the level of people inside the top 100. The points on the board don't show it yet, but I'm sure they will do. When you go on from that level, it's a question of consistency, week in, week out.

"In reality, there are always stages of huge improvement and then a little bit of taking stock, and more improvement. Where he is at the moment is very much on a straight line going forward." The straight and narrow, in fact.

l Croatia will meet Slovakia in December's Davis Cup final after the fledgling nations clinched victories. Croatia upset Russia, while Slovakia got the better of Argentina.

DAVIS CUP World Group play-off (Geneva): R Federer (Swit) bt A Mackin (GB) 6-0, 6-0, 6-2; S Wawrinka (Swit) bt A Murray (GB) 6-3, 7-6, 6-4; Federer and Y Allegro bt G Rusedski and Murray 7-5, 2-6, 7-6, 6-2; G Bastl (Swit) bt D Sherwood (GB) 6-3, 6-0; Wawrinka bt Mackin 7-5, 7-6. Switzerland win the tie 5-0.

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