Andy Murray gave Great Britain the early advantage in their Davis Cup tie against Japan by beating Taro Daniel 6-1 6-3 6-1 at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham. The 28-year-old star won the first match of the tie in emphatic fashion, making light work of his American-born opponent, as Britain began their defence of the title they won in November.
Murray, whose wife Kim gave birth to their first child last month, was vastly superior to the little-known Japanese player and wasted no time in putting Great Britain in control of the tie, winning the one-sided match in just one hour and 30 minutes. Murray was never quite at his best, but still had more than enough in his arsenal to overcome Daniel.
"The last few weeks have been the best of my life, really special," he said during his post-match interview of becoming a father to Sophia. "It has been tough the last few days being away from her for the first time but it had to happen to some stage, and it is a pleasure to represent my country and be with teammates that we won with last year."
The grand slam-winning star took control of the match from the outset, taking advantage of his opponent's early nerves to secure the first set by six games to one. Indeed, Murray won the first 11 points of the match.
Daniel, 23, upped his game in the second, however, and forced the world number two to work hard for the set, which he won by six games to three. However, normal service was resumed in the third as Murray eased his way towards a predictably comfortable win against an opponent who only has five ATP Tour wins to his name.
"The second set was tough – a lot of close games and some tough points, which was good for me," he explained in reference to his recent absence from the sport. "I was getting a little out of breath but I played a good match, served well, missed a few second serves but the first serve went extremely well, so it was a nice start."
The match marked Murray's first on-court appearance since he lost to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final earlier this year. But the workout – which featured four double faults and 25 unforced errors – is likely to stand him in good stead as the tie progresses and Great Britain look to defend their Davis Cup crown.
Murray's win – his 12th consecutive triumph in the iconic competition – also gives the hosts the early advantage in the best-of-five tie in Birmingham, where the teams are fighting to secure a quarter-final place and World Group status for 2017. The losing country go into a play-off to try and stay in the World Group.