On Sunday one of the Battle of the Brits field will earn the bragging rights over his fellows with three of the last four who have already qualified for the semi-finals, getting ready for the final push.
It’d be difficult. There’s always more to beating Andy than tennis. You always think how good he was. It’s a difficult match but I’ll have to deal with that Dan Evans
The three through are in many people’s minds, the favourites for the title, namely Dan Evans, the world No.28 and current British No.1, Kyle Edmund, world No.44 and former British No.1 and Andy Murray, the three time grand slam champion, former world No.1 currently ranked 129 who will face Evans for a place in Sunday’s final.
The final place in the last four line up will be filled by the winner of this afternoons clash between the British No.3 ranked 77 and the 20-year-old Paul Jubb, world ranked 623 but already seen as a future champion, who replaced Jay Clarke who had to withdraw injured two days ago.
The spotlight though is firmly fixed on Saturday’s Evans versus Murray match. The event might well be described as an exhibition event without any spectators and no status in the international tennis world, but the intensity of the matches would decry that as Evans said following his comfortable 6-3 6-3 Thursday win over Norrie.
“To be honest with you, that’s the first time I’ve heard it called an exhibition,” Evans, 30 said on topping the Greg Rusedski Group and secure his place in the last four. “No one here is treating it as an exhibition. Yeah, you’re trying to raise money for the NHS but everyone is trying to win.”
Looking ahead to his clash with Murray, Britain’s most successful tennis player, he admitted: “It’d be difficult. There’s always more to beating Andy than tennis. You always think how good he was. It’s a difficult match but I’ll have to deal with that.
“The four guys [Evans, Murray, Norrie and Kyle Edmund] who are the seeds here are very, very closely matched as it is at the minute.”
It will be their first meeting and the Birmingham native will be considered favourite to progress as Murray, playing his first competitive tournament since last November when a pelvic bruise sidelined him until his expected comeback in March when lockdown intervened to force a further delay on his long-awaited return.
He has showed his famous true grit these past few days. His movement has been great and he has not reported any problems with his rebuilt hip but match-fitness is now his concern and became very evident as he looked fatigued following his two-hour gruelling 6-3 7-5 victory over James Ward yesterday to secure second place in the Tim Henman Group, behind Kyle Edmund who beat him the previous day after two-hours and 32-minutes of heavy and powerful play.
Murray, 33, admitted he was ‘a bit tired’ in an on-court interview.
“It was really tough. I felt like Wardy played well, he was dictating points early on.
We had a lot of long games. Physically, it was a pretty tough match. I’m feeling my hip a little bit but it’s not really effecting my movement.
“When I was playing Davis Cup in November, it was. My hip was sore when I moved. I’m feeling it a little just now but that was the best I’ve moved in the three matches. I’m delighted that I’ve got a rest day tomorrow [Friday] because I’m very, very tired.
“I probably could have been a bit more aggressive on my backhand. I feel like I’ve been hitting my forehand good.”
In the meantime, Edmund awaits his semi-final opponent.
Paul Jubb, who only recently turned pro, beat fellow tournament substitute Ryan Peniston 6-2 6-7 10-6 on Thursday afternoon and now fancies testing himself against top-100 opposition.
“It is a great opportunity to play a top-100 player,” Jubb said.
“Those are the matches you can learn from, win or lose. I definitely back my game to cause him [Norrie] some trouble.”
And, like Evans, he felt the event was an actual tournament and a great way to get the rustiness out of your game.
“It still definitely felt like a tournament environment, even though there’s no fans. There are still cameras around. It didn’t have an exhibition feel to it.”
The fight for bragging rights continues!