Andy Murray ready to test himself as Scot follows in footsteps of Dan Evans

Simon Briggs
The Telegraph
Andy Murray will drop down a level in the hope of reigniting his singles' career - Getty Images North America
Andy Murray will drop down a level in the hope of reigniting his singles' career - Getty Images North America

As Andy Murray flew home from North Carolina on Tuesday, he was already plotting a route that might seem familiar to British tennis nerds – if only because Dan Evans followed it on his own journey back up the rankings last year.

Twelve months ago, Evans lost in the second round of the Rafael Nadal Open in Mallorca – the second-tier event that Murray is considering as the next staging post for his singles comeback – and then moved on to another Challenger tournament in Cassis, one of many lovely seaside towns strung out along the French Riviera.

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It is easy to imagine Murray playing a similar schedule before he flies on to Asia, where he has already entered Zhuhai – an ATP 250 event that begins on Sept 23 – and the 500-point tournament in Beijing the week after.

Yes, he would be working at a lower level than he is used to, but Mallorca and Cassis are delightful towns with first-class facilities. Not exactly a case of slumming it, then.

These two tournaments run during the first and second weeks of the US Open, so the entrants are usually ranked outside the top 100. They might each only offer a total prize packet of $46,600 – comfortably less than the first-round loser’s cheque of $58,000 in New York – but this is less about money than it is about rebuilding after a career hiatus.

<span>Dan Evans returned from his suspension at a Challenger event last year</span> <span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
Dan Evans returned from his suspension at a Challenger event last year Credit: Getty Images

The two Britons’ back stories are very different. In Evans’s case, he was returning from a cocaine suspension; in Murray’s, a career-threatening hip condition. But the key factor, in both cases, was a near-total loss of rankings points.

Murray dropped to No 839 last summer before winning four matches across last year’s American hard-court season. After losing most of those points at the start of this month, he now stands at No 329 – a position that wouldn’t normally be high enough to earn him direct entry into Challenger tournaments. Fortunately, his stature within the game should be good for a wild card or two.

He will know, however, that there are plenty of capable players operating at Challenger level. The entry list for the Rafa Nadal Open features world No 85 Peter Gojowycz – who beat British No 1 Kyle Edmund on the way to the semi-finals of Washington earlier this month – as well as other familiar names such as Sergiy Stakhovsky and Lukas Rosol: a dangerous pair who own Wimbledon victories over Roger Federer and Nadal respectively.

Tennis’s leading names are fond of emphasising the depth of talent within the game. By dropping down a level, Murray is about to test that depth for himself.

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