Australia are gunning for Andy Murray, intent on wiping out Great Britain’s spearhead one way or another in this weekend’s Davis Cup semi-final in Glasgow.
As in Britain’s quarter-final victory over France, Murray is likely to carry the full load of singles and doubles duties at the Emirates Arena.
The world No.3 delivered a Herculean effort to score three successive wins after James Ward lost the opening singles rubber at the Queens Club to Gilles Simon.
But the heavy burden took a toll with a drained Murray forced to fight back from a set down and a service break down to secure Britain’s path to the semi-finals with a hard-earned win over Simon in the decisive reverse singles rubber.
Murray will undoubtedly be fresher this time around.
Instead of backing up straight after a gruelling grasscourt campaign and a run to the Wimbledon semi-finals, the two-time major winner will have had more than a week to recover from – and stew over – his earliest grand slam exit in five years.
Doubles ace Jamie Murray is tipping Australia to feel the backlash.
But Australian captain Wally Masur is hoping his charges can drag the British linchpin into a war of attrition.
Masur also says Murray’s fourth-round US Open loss to Kevin Anderson – and tough four-set opener against Nick Kyrgios – may also have sapped the Great Scot of confidence.
“I’d like to think that we’re not going in with that attitude that he’s absolutely unbeatable,” Masur told AAP.
“You look at the great players, and Andy is certainly one, you need to look at the grand slam tournaments.
“Quite often when they lose, there’s a bit of an accumulative approach to it all.
“Andy was beaten by Kevin Anderson in New York but maybe there’s a little bit of an argument that the four sets against Nick and the five sets against Adrian Mannarino led to that defeat to Kevin.
“Of course Kevin played brilliantly and I’m not taking anything away from Kevin, but I think we need to adopt that attitude.
“We can’t just tick it off as a point to Andy.”
Masur will likely pit Thanasi Kokkinakis against Murray on day one and keep the higher-ranked Sam Groth primed for Saturday’s doubles with Lleyton Hewitt before Australian No.1 Bernard Tomic gets a crack at Murray on Sunday.
Kokkinakis, a good friend and regular practice partner of the Scot’s, will be asked to throw everything at Murray on Friday in a bid to fatigue him for the weekend’s matches.
“We’ve got to try to take a little bit out of him, no question about it,” Masur said.
“We’ve got to be as competitive as we can possibly be and we’ve got to turn it into a physical contest over the three days.”
A torrid battle against Kokkinakis on the slowish hard court may even prompt British captain Leon Smith to rest Murray from the doubles and team Dom Inglot up with Jamie Murray instead.
The pair almost beat the top-ranked Bryan brothers in Britain’s first-round win over the USA in Glasgow and Jamie Murray said he’d have issues playing with Inglot again.
“If we end up playing because Andy doesn’t want to play on Saturday, then I think we’re both in good form,” he said.
“We will still fancy our chances about winning the doubles match.”