Andy Murray is caught in a complex tug-of-war between the Davis Cup finals and the ATP World Tour Finals this November.
After helping Britain reach the Davis Cup finals, a team tennis tournament, for the first time since 1978, Murray suggested he may skip the ATP World Tour Finals in London’s O2 Arena.
The World Tour Finals are a hard-court tournament held November 15-22, and the will end just five days before the Davis Cup finals which will be held in Belgium on clay.
“The ATP World Tour Finals is a mandatory event. All players who qualify, unless injured, are required to compete in the event.
“Andy Murray has had a fantastic season and earned his place among the world’s top eight players to compete at the season finale. We are aware of the comments made after the Davis Cup tie in Glasgow, however our expectations are that, if fully fit, Andy would compete in this year’s tournament.
“Unless we hear otherwise via an official withdrawal, he is still entered to compete.”
This sets up a tough choice for Murray.
There’s a sense of national pride at stake for Murray. As ESPN’s Peter Bodo notes, Murray could not only help Britain win its first Davis Cup since 1936, he could be the first British Wimbledon winner to do it since Fred Perry in 1936.
However, he’s now under pressure from the ATP to play in the World Tour Finals. As Bodo also mentions, it doesn’t bode well for the ATP to have the face of the host nation skipping the tournament. ATP also has contracts with the O2 Arena and needs to sell tickets — something that will be affected by Murray’s absence. According to the Daily Mail, Murray could lose up to £1 million (about US $US1.5 million) for missing the tournament. Eurosport says that Murray would make £10,000 (~$US15,000) for just showing up, and another £100,000 (~$US150,000) for each win on the opening stage, which has three matches against three of the top eight players in the world.
It’s unknown how far the ATP can reach here. If Murray were to withdraw, he would essentially be punished anyway, with a loss of prize money and lowered world ranking — could the ATP really punish him any further?
Playing in both tournaments complicates things for Murray. Not only is the schedule tight, Murray would have to quickly adjust to playing on clay, his worst surface. According to his ATP career page, Murray is just 78-38 (.672) with two titles on clay, compared to 366-103 (.780) with 26 titles on hard surfaces. Murray would be left with little practice time to prepare for a historic tournament on his worst surface.
Murray had acknowledged how tough it would be to play both tournaments when he initially suggested he might skip the World Tour Finals:
“If you reach the final and play on the Sunday you also need to take time off – you can’t just play five matches against the best players in the world and then not take any days off.
“For me to play — if I was to reach the final — five in a row and then take a couple of days off, it would mean only playing for two days on the clay before the Davis Cup final starts and that wouldn’t be enough for me. I need more time on the clay to let my back get used to it.”
Murray may have to do that, though, if he wants avoid punishment from the ATP. However, if he suddenly comes up with a minor injury leading up to the World Tour Finals, it will be clear which tournament he’s more committed to.