John Lloyd, Britain’s Davis Cup captain, is at Roehampton this week for the play-off matches to decide the last two places in his team for next week’s tie against Ukraine in Glasgow, but his attention will no doubt be distracted by events here.
Andy Murray, Lloyd’s only world-class singles player, won his first match last night at the Dubai Championships, but aggravated the ankle injury that forced him to pull out of a tournament in Marseilles last week. Murray went through to a second-round encounter with Arnaud Clément or Rainer Schuettler when his opponent, Sergiy Stakhovsky, who is due to play the Scot again in next week’s tie at the Braehead Arena, retired with his own ankle problem when just two points from defeat.
Stakhovsky quit with Murray leading 6-7, 6-3, 5-3 and 30-0. Although the Ukrainian had had treatment in the first set, he hardly seemed in a serious enough state to deny his opponent the courtesy of completing his victory. Stakhovsky said afterwards that he was optimistic that he would be fit to play in Glasgow.
Murray was more concerned by his own ankle injury. “It was sore,” the world No 4 said. “It was feeling OK in practice but I think I hurt it again tonight. It’s just annoying. I was feeling fine over the last couple of days, but it’s not the same as playing. I was only practising for an hour and a half. It was around the hour and a half mark where it started hurting tonight.”
The British No 1 found his rhythm immediately and seemed in command when Stakhovsky served at 1-3 and 15-40. At that point, however, Murray’s level dropped, while the world No 75 grew in confidence and began mixing his game up well.
Stakhovsky held his serve but Murray hit two successive double faults from 30-30 in the next game. More breaks of serve followed before Stakhovsky took the tie-break 7- 3. The Ukrainian broke serve in the opening game of the second set, but Murray then took charge, despite the fact that his injury was causing him trouble on his serve. The Scot won the next four games, served out for the set and broke to love in the opening game of the decider.
Murray was not impressed by Stakhovsky’s retirement. “If he can’t continue then he can’t continue, but on the first point of that [final] game he was sliding to the backhand on the court,” he said. “He hit two 190kph serves to start the game so he was still serving OK. It was just his movement to his forehand where he was struggling. I’ve been in that position and I’ve always tried to finish the match.”
* Anne Keothavong, who has broken into the world’s top 50, claimed yesterday that her progress had been held back by “unprofessional people” at the Lawn Tennis Association. The British No1 said she was happy with the support she currently receives from the LTA but added: “I could have been in the top 50 years ago but I was influenced by some unprofessional people, although ultimately it’s down to the individual. I still believe there are unprofessional people working at the LTA and it saddens me.”