Murray goes from Nadal to Hungarian law student

 

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The Independent Online

Andy Murray is used to handling requests for photographs from the media and from fans, but here at the Braehead Arena yesterday it was his next opponents who wanted to be pictured with the world No 4.

The contrast between the 24-year-old Scot's last match, when he lost to Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals of the US Open six days ago, and his reappearance yesterday in a Glasgow shopping centre could hardly be starker.

Murray's first rubber in Britain's Davis Cup tie with Hungary will be against a law student who does not even have a world ranking. Sebo Kiss, aged 27, has played in only two tournaments in three years since starting his university studies and has career earnings of just $26,254 (about £16,600). Murray v Kiss threatens to be a tennis equivalent of the Glasgow kiss.

In a similar scenario at the same venue two months ago, Murray put Britain on the way to victory over Luxembourg by beating Laurent Bram, a club coach, 6-0, 6-0, 6-0. "I wouldn't expect to win with that scoreline again," Murray said. "It's tough. I'm a bit tired."

Murray returned home from New York on Monday, travelled to Scotland on Tuesday and had his first practice session on the indoor court on Wednesday. It has not been ideal preparation, but with Murray in the team Britain should have no trouble securing the victory that would ensure their return next year to Europe Africa Zone Group One, effectively the Davis Cup's second division.

James Ward, Britain's No 2 singles player, recently broke into the world's top 150, while Leon Smith, the home captain, has such an embarrassment of doubles riches at his disposal that he has been able to overlook Jamie Murray, the country's highest ranked player. The doubles pair here will be Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins, who reached the quarter-finals at both Wimbledon and the US Open this summer.

The disparity between the two teams is reflected in their respective resources. While the Hungarian tennis federation has an annual budget of less than £400,000, the Lawn Tennis Association gets by on £65m.

"Because tennis is quite new to the Olympics we have less investment than other sports," Miklos Hornok, the Hungary captain, said. "It's not the biggest sport in Hungary."

Three of Hungary's top four players – Adam Kellner (world No 228), Denes Lukacs (No 484) and Marton Fucsovics (No 677 and 2010 Wimbledon junior champion) – are unavailable this weekend. Their No 1 singles player will be Attila Balazs (world No 262), a clay-court specialist who will also play doubles with Kornel Bardoczky (No 880). Gyorgy Balazs, the elder brother of Attila the Hungarian and another player without a singles world ranking, completes the squad.

Kiss can at least boast that he has been on court with Novak Djokovic. On his 17th birthday in 2004 the current world No 1 beat Kiss 7-6, 6-4 in the qualifying tournament for a clay-court Challenger event in Budapest.

Djokovic is playing for Serbia against Argentina in the Davis Cup semi-finals in Belgrade this weekend, while Rafael Nadal, the man he beat in the final at Flushing Meadows, will play in Spain's semi-final against France in Cordoba. Roger Federer, the other beaten semi-finalist in New York, is with the Swiss team in Australia. Considering that the matchest start just four days after the US Open final, it is an impressive show of commitment from the world's top four players.

"I've spoken to all of those guys about it and every one loves playing for their country," Murray said. "They just sometimes find the scheduling of matches difficult. It's not only the physical stress that you go through at the Grand Slams, but also the mental stress."

Murray watched some of the US Open final and was impressed by the "unbelievable" tennis played by Djokovic and Nadal. When asked how he looked back on his own tournament, Murray said: "I don't. I look forward and try to improve. You learn from mistakes and move on. This week is the first week in that process."

Schedule (GB names first): Today (3pm start) J Ward v A Balazs; A Murray v S Kiss. Tomorrow (2pm start) C Fleming and R Hutchins v Balazs and K Bardoczky. Sunday (1pm) Murray v Balazs; Ward v Kiss.

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