Seven days ago Andy Murray was facing Rafael Nadal on Centre Court in the semi-finals at Wimbledon. Today the 24-year-old Scot will be playing in a Glasgow shopping centre against a club coach who does not even have a world ranking.
In his first Davis Cup rubber for nearly two years Murray takes on 27-year-old Laurent Bram, Luxembourg's second singles player, who reached a career-high No 996 in the world rankings before retiring four years ago. On the Futures and Challenger circuits Bram never beat an opponent ranked higher than No 778 in the world. Apart from his appearances in the Davis Cup he now plays only in his home country, where there are just 55 clubs and 5,000 registered players. He works as a coach at the Gasperich club in the capital.
"For me it's going to be a great experience to play against him," Bram said as he looked forward to playing Murray in the biggest match of his life. "For sure he's a good player, otherwise he wouldn't be No 4 in the world. Let's see how I can handle it."
While Luxembourg have one player of genuine international class – Gilles Müller, the world No 81, pushed Nadal hard in the third round at Wimbledon last month – this weekend's Europe Africa Zone Group Two tie at the Braehead Arena underlines how important it is for the home team to win promotion back to Group One, the Davis Cup's second tier. The winners of the current tie, which is being staged at a venue where Britain lost to Serbia & Montenegro in 2006 and to Ukraine in 2009, will face either Belarus or Hungary in a promotion play-off in September.
The two other members of the Luxembourg squad are both raw 18-year-olds (Mike Vermeer is the world No 971 and Tom Diederich does not have a ranking), while their captain, Jacques Radoux, has to take annual leave whenever the team play. Radoux, a former Davis Cup player, works as a lawyer at the European Court of Justice.
Murray, who will be playing his first competitive singles match in Scotland since he joined the main tour, has not played in the Davis Cup since Britain lost to Poland in Liverpool in September 2009, when defeat saw the team relegated from Group One. "I've always enjoyed playing Davis Cup," Murray said. "You spend the whole year on your own, but now you've got guys around you. I like playing for my country. I always have done."
Asked about his future Davis Cup plans, Murray said: "I think I'll play more for sure. There are a few things that have happened when I've played Davis Cup in the past that I didn't enjoy but now I'm looking forward to it again. This week's helped. It makes you realise what a great competition it is. The players really enjoy it. I'm sure I'll play more than I have done in the last few years."
James Ward, who has won five of his six Davis Cup rubbers and is fresh from the most successful grass-court season of his career, kicks off the tie against Müller. Murray and his brother, Jamie, are the doubles players, while Dan Evans replaces Colin Fleming, who has a foot injury. Jamie said: "I missed out on both the ties that were here before so for me it's a great experience. Playing with Andy in Davis Cup is not something I've done before." He added with a smile: "I'm looking forward to it – almost as much as he is."
The team for this tie is probably Britain's strongest since Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski retired. Andy Murray, who has won 10 Davis Cup singles rubbers in succession since losing to Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka in his first six years ago, said: "We're not far away from being an excellent Davis Cup team. If James and Dan can push themselves up and get more experience playing against guys like Gilles then we can have an excellent team."
Meanwhile a clean-shaven Murray rejected criticism from David Lloyd, Britain's former Davis Cup captain, who said that the Scot should shave more often if he wanted to win a Grand Slam title. "I think he should stick to what he does best and that's building leisure clubs," Murray said.
Programme Today (4pm, GB names first): J Ward v G Müller; A Murray v L Bram. Tomorrow (2pm): A Murray and J Murray v Bram and M Vermeer. Sunday (1pm): Murray v Müller; Ward v Bram.
Rachel O'Reilly from Coventry was the winner of Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon competition. She wins a week's tuition at the IMG Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida. The other daily winners will all receive a signed T-shirt from Nick.Reuse content