Watching Lionel Messi lift 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 was glued to the drama in Qatar, and full of admiration for the Argentinian, from whom he is separated by six weeks in age.
Being 35 years old presents even more challenges for Murray as he plays with metal hip, but he was delighted for a fellow athlete he first watched while training as a teenager in Barcelona.
Watching Lionel Messi’s World Cup triumph has inspired Andy Murray to play the ‘best he can’
‘He’s amazing and I was really happy for him that he was able to finally win the World Cup when it was sort of like, he was seen as not having done it international level, which was strange,’ said Murray, who features in the Scotland v England Battle of the Brits event in Aberdeen this evening.
‘The age that he’s at as well, he’s born I think the same year as me. Seeing any athlete in their mid to late 30s going out there and competing at what they love is brilliant.
‘I’ve had the opportunity to witness that a bit in tennis, whether that’s Serena or Federer and Nadal and these guys in our own sport. I find that it gives me motivation to keep going and keep trying to go out there and perform as best I can.’
Messi, 35, won the World Cup with Argentina on Sunday after beating France 4-2 on penalties
Murray is just back from three weeks training in Florida with his mentor Ivan Lendl, still pushing himself to achieve what he can in the time he has left.
Before heading to Australia he is leading the Scotland team in the two-day challenge against England before a sell-out crowd in the far north.
It is 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 period.
While there might be a slight pre-Christmas pantomime element with football personalities Ally McCoist and Ian Holloway in the chair as on-court captains, the actual competition is likely to be perfectly serious.
The tennis star, who is also 35, first watched Messi play while he was a teenager at Barcelona
Adding to the undercurrents of the next 48 hours will be the recently-stated views of England’s Dan Evans about selection matters for GB in the Davis Cup group stage back in September.
The 32 year-old Midlander has made no secret of his opinion that Murray and Joe Salisbury was the wrong combination in the two deciding doubles rubbers, which saw defeats that eliminated GB from the competition.
While Murray was reasonably phlegmatic on Tuesday about the public spat, his England team-mate Salisbury appeared less enamoured with Evans for going public.
‘We disagreed on certain things, and I disagreed with how he went about it and some of his opinions as well, but that’s fine,’ said the normally mild-mannered US Open doubles champion.
Murray said: ‘Seeing any athlete in their mid to late 30s competing at what they love is brilliant’
‘Obviously, that’s not the way most of us go about things or think is the best way to go about 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’ve no issue with him thinking he should play.
‘That’s part of the reason why he is so good. I don’t think it was great for the for the team overall, but we can disagree and just get on with things.’
Evans will have Jack Draper and Paul Jubb backing him up in singles, while the English will have a high-calibre doubles pairing in the respective world numbers one and four, Neal Skupski and Joe Salisbury.
In the absence of Cam Norrie, who has been playing in the Middle East ahead of Australia, world number 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 personal, have you never had something bad said about you? I was 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 that he might otherwise have when facing elder statesman Murray on the regular circuit.
‘I’d find it pretty difficult to play Andy on the tour and to sort of get in his face a bit,’ said Evans. ‘ But because there’s no points and there’s a crowd it’d be quite good fun to to beat him here.
‘I think with Aidan (McHugh, second Scottish singles player) obviously it’d be nice to give him a bit of a hiding. It will be an amazing atmosphere like it always is up in Scotland and it will be quite 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 his mind, Evans was also prepared to offer his verdict on next month’s Netflix tennis version of Drive To Survive.
It is highly-anticipated by many, although less so by the British number two, who thinks it will suffer because not all players have participated: ‘You could have hand-picked who they were going to choose. Predictable, sort of predictable.
‘You want to want to hear what Rafa (Nadal) has got to say when he had to pull out of Wimbledon. But we’ll have to listen to (Stefanos) Tsitsipas and his dad. There was always going to be a tennis dad in there wasn’t there? Usually it’s all acted, you can see it, come on.’
Dan Evans insisted that Murray and Joe Salisbury was the wrong combination in the Davis Cup