July 29, 2020
Andy Murray was apologetic after a thriller of a match ended in a touch of farce.
The brilliant Scot had aimed to level a tie-break with a low and audaciously-angled attempt at a winner.
He accidentally hit his partner, Jodie Burrage on the shoulder instead. It was over just like that.
The ball might not have cleared the net or indeed landed inside the tram lines if it had been allowed to progress.
And it didn’t really matter, of course. This was little more than a fun work-out for Murray, who has his eye on the return of the tour in North America.
Those of us already looking forward to Wimbledon 2021 see Murray’s return to big-time tennis as a gradual process.
As long as he hits his peak in time for Wimbledon 2021, what comes before that matters somewhat less.
Murray will still be keen to establish himself at the other Slams and enjoy as much success as possible at the big occasions.
But these are baby steps for now. The snarling British lion will return to full strength and aggression in good time.
Whilst the Battle of the Brits is not without edge, for Andy it is little more than a loosener.
Try telling that to Australian Open winner Joe Salisbury and his seventeen-year-old partner, Emma Raducanu though.
The gutsy teenager was particularly impressive in the deciding super-breaker as the underdogs won 4-6, 6-4, 10-8.
Sure, Murray didn’t always seem to want to bully Raducanu as much as he could have done, had victory been more vital.
But given half a chance, the rising star more than held her own. Raducanu was truly pumped by the end – and rightly so.
She said: ‘It’s great, Joe definitely carried me, I made some mistakes in the first set but the energy we had between us was great.’
Salisbury, who got away with a double fault in the tie-break, was equally grateful to his partner.
He said: ‘We had really good energy and we were going after it. Emma was amazing. She was great in that tie-break!’
In truth it was Jodie Burrage who came up short in some of the big tie-break moments, but she will learn from that.
As Judy Murray said, ‘She has a big future if she keeps working hard. She has made massive improvements to her game.’
That’s why she was able to beat Jo Konta the previous day, and why Burrage and Murray looked so comfortable during the first set.
The Burrage serve looked so dependable and Murray’s backhand volley was a killer in that opener.
But in the second set Murray’s own serve lacked fizz and accuracy. Then Jodie felt the mounting pressure at the death.
She also felt the sting of Murray’s desperate last attempt to keep them in the match.
‘Sorry about that,’ Andy said afterwards, clearly disgusted with himself.
Team captain Judy Murray seemed to look on impassively for most of this sunny evening outdoors.
We might have anticipated more input from Andy’s mum, since it was a special occasion.
‘The last time I captained Andy was when he was playing Under 14s for Scotland,’ she had revealed earlier.
But it was Dan Evans who provided most of the vocal support after his own 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Kyle Edmund.
The edgy ending to that clash had threatened to erupt into full confrontation. Edmund seemed annoyed at the Evans celebrations.
The customary touch of racquets at the end became something more. Edmund struck Evo’s racquet rather harder than the Midlander deemed gentlemanly.
‘Be very careful, Kyle. Be very careful, mate,’ he warned.
Those words from Evans carried a momentary hint of menace. But happily the tension quickly evaporated.
As for Andy, he has enjoyed more satisfying evenings in the sunshine of south-west London. And he will once more!
But these are the early stages of a long competitive year ahead.
Those twelve months will come to a climax at Wimbledon 2021 and the Olympics.
A bit of drama at the Battle of the Brits this summer won’t bother Murray too much either way. Not even when that drama ends in a moment of farce.