Watching Lionel Messi rise to the World Cup has served as the perfect inspiration for Andy Murray as he prepares for his eighteenth year on the main tennis tour.
Murray is glued to the drama in Qatar, and full of admiration for the Argentinian, from whom he is separated by six weeks in age.
Turning 35 presents more challenges for Murray as he plays with a metal hip, but he is delighted for a fellow athlete he first watched while training as a teenager in Barcelona.
Watching Lionel Messi’s World Cup success inspired Andy Murray to play the ‘best he can’
‘He’s amazing and I’m really happy for him that he finally managed to win the World Cup when it was like, he’s seen that he hasn’t done it at international level, which is strange,’ said Murray , featuring the Scotland v England Battle of the Brits event in Aberdeen on Wednesday night.
‘The age that he’s at as well, he’s born I think the same year as me. To see any athlete in their mid to late 30s going out there and competing at what they love is brilliant.
‘I’ve had the chance to witness that a little bit in tennis, whether it’s Serena or Federer and Nadal and these guys in our own sport. I find it gives me the motivation to keep going and keep trying to go out there and perform to the best of my ability.’
Messi, 35, won the World Cup with Argentina on Sunday after beating France 4-2 on penalties
Murray has just returned from three weeks of training in Florida with his mentor Ivan Lendl, still pushing himself to achieve his best by the time he left.
Before heading to Australia he led the Scotland team in a two-day challenge against England before a sold-out crowd in the far north.
It was the brainchild of his brother Jamie, who first came up with the Battle of the Brits concept to provide competition for domestic players during the 2020 lockdown.
While there may be a slight element of pre-Christmas pantomime with football personalities Ally McCoist and Ian Holloway in the chair as court captains, the actual competition is likely to be entirely serious.
The tennis star, also 35, first watched Messi play when he was a teenager in Barcelona
Adding to the undercurrents of the next 48 hours are England’s Dan Evans’ recently expressed views on selection matters for GB in the Davis Cup group stage in September.
The 32-year-old Midlander made no secret of his opinion that Murray and Joe Salisbury were the wrong combination in the two deciding doubles rubbers, which saw defeats knock GB out of the competition.
While Murray was reasonably phlegmatic on Tuesday about the public spat, his England team-mate Salisbury appeared less enamored with Evans for the public.
‘We disagreed on some things, and I disagreed with how he did it and some of his opinions as well, but that’s fine,’ said the usually mild-mannered US Open doubles champions.
Murray said: ‘It’s brilliant to see any athlete in their mid to late 30s competing in what they love’
‘Obviously, that’s not the way most of us go about things or think that’s the best way to do things. I know most of the guys on the team weren’t too happy with the comments he made and how public he was about them, but I don’t have an issue with him thinking he should play.
That’s part of the reason why he’s so good. I don’t think it’s good for the team as a whole, but we can disagree and move on with things.’
Evans will have Jack Draper and Paul Jubb supporting him in the singles, while the English will have a high-caliber doubles pairing with their respective world number one and four, Neal Skupski and Joe Salisbury.
In the absence of Cam Norrie, who is playing in the Middle East ahead of Australia, world No 27 Evans is the highest-ranked singles player present.
The Scot is preparing for his 18th year on the main tennis tour despite playing with a metal hip
He reiterated the view that his opinions should not cause offence: ‘In tennis we take everything so personally, have you ever had something bad said about you? I’m just saying, I didn’t think somebody did their job very well,’ said Evans.
He believes this week’s team format will remove some of the inhibitions he might have when facing elder statesman Murray on the regular circuit.
‘It’s going to be difficult for me to play Andy on tour and get in his face a bit,’ Evans said. ‘But with no points and a lot of people, it would be fun to beat him here.
‘I think with Aidan (McHugh, second Scottish singles player) obviously it’s good to give him a bit of cover. It’s going to be a wonderful atmosphere as it has been in Scotland and it will be interesting to be on the other side of it.’
Murray is getting ready to lead Scotland in the Battle of the Brits challenge against England
Rarely afraid to speak her mind, Evans is also ready to offer her verdict on the Netflix tennis version of Drive To Survive next month.
It was highly anticipated by many, although less so by the British No 2, who thought it would suffer because not all players participated:
‘You can choose who they choose. Predictable, kind of predictable.
You want to hear what Rafa (Nadal) had to say when he had to leave Wimbledon. But we have to listen to (Stefanos) Tsitsipas and his father. There’s always a tennis dad, right? Usually just acted, you’ll see, let’s go.’
Dan Evans insists Murray and Joe Salisbury are the wrong Davis Cup combination