Murray faces practice partner Kokkinakis in Davis Cup semis
GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) Andy Murray will play his friend and practice partner Thanasi Kokkinakis in the opening match of the Davis Cup semifinal between Britain and Australia as the host country bids to reach its first final since 1978.
Murray will open the best-of-five series on Friday against Kokkinakis on an indoor hard court at the Emirates Arena. Dan Evans, who was brought in at late notice as Britain’s second singles player ahead of James Ward and Kyle Edmund, was drawn to face Bernard Tomic in the second match.
Murray’s brother, Jamie, and Dominic Inglot were nominated to face Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Groth in Saturday’s doubles.
The third-ranked Andy Murray believes the blend of his experience and home support will be a big advantage in the opening match against the 72nd-ranked Kokkinakis. The two have never played each other.
”He’s a pretty explosive player, but it’ll be a tough one for him,” Murray said. ”I expect a tough match, I know Thanasi well. But this weekend we are obviously rivals. The atmosphere when we played the first round (against the United States) here was phenomenal and this time, it will be even better. It can work in his advantage, going out there with no fear but hopefully I can use my experience in these situations to my advantage.”
Murray missed a team dinner on Wednesday night because of a stomach bug but said he is ready to play.
”It has been a tiring few months with some tough matches in tough conditions but I feel I have recovered pretty well from that,” said Murray, who lost in the fourth round at the U.S. Open to Kevin Anderson.
Kokkinakis said he is relishing taking on Murray.
”He’s a great player and to play him on home ground here in Glasgow will be a huge challenge for me,” the Australian said. ”I’m not sure whether knowing him well helps or hinders. I think he knows my game and I know his, although I’ve seen a bit more of him than he has of me.”
Australia has won the Davis Cup 29 times, the last time in 2003. Britain has not won the Cup since 1936.
The winning team in Glasgow will face either Belgium or Argentina in the final.
The 300th-ranked Evans, who won a low-tier challenger event last weekend in Nottingham, England, was a late addition to the British team after Edmund hurt his ankle in practice on Tuesday. Evans has not played in Davis Cup since 2013.
”I felt Dan was the one who was in the best place to go in for the weekend. He looks sharp, he’s very much match-fit and has played a lot of tennis,” British team captain Leon Smith said.
Evans will be an underdog against the 23rd-ranked Tomic, even though he beat the Australian in four sets at the 2013 U.S. Open.
”"He’s beaten me before so it’s a smart move,” Tomic said. ”It’s not easy playing someone I haven’t beaten before, but I’m very confident with the way I’m playing.”