Andy Murray’s rivals have backed him to make the adjustment from hard court to clay in time for Great Britain’s Davis Cup final against Belgium.
The world number two will spend this coming week playing in the ATP World Tour Finals at London’s O2 Arena, giving him less than a week to prepare for the match in Ghent, which begins a week on Friday.
Murray has made it clear the Davis Cup, where Britain will attempt to win the title for the first time since 1936, is his priority and he did not practice on hard courts until Friday having spent the first four days of this week honing his clay-court game.
Rafael Nadal played for Spain in the Davis Cup final after the World Tour Finals in 2009 and 2011, and does not see the transition as a big deal.
He said: “We can create a story but at the end of the day we are competing in different tournaments in a period of time shorter than there is between here and the final of Davis Cup.
“You have four days in between that you can adapt. You have time enough to prepare yourself for the final and it will be not a big problem for Andy. He’s an amazing, talented player.”
The main issue for Murray is that, unlike Nadal, clay is not a natural surface for him and he likes to give himself plenty of time to adjust to the different physical and technical demands.
But he can at least take lots of confidence from his clay-court season earlier in the year, which was by far the best of his career.
Murray had never previously reached a final on the surface but he won his first title in Munich and then beat Nadal to lift the Masters trophy in Madrid before making the semi-finals of the French Open.
Stan Wawrinka was in Murray’s situation last year and showed it is possible to play well in both events, reaching the semi-finals in London and then playing the starring role in Switzerland’s Davis Cup triumph against France.
He said: “For me it was quite simple. I was struggling after the US Open with my game, with my confidence, so my goal was to play well here, to find my game and my confidence and then change surface.
“For me, changing to clay is quite normal and easy because I grew up on clay, I love clay. It took me one or two days to change surface so I didn’t have a problem with that.
“I think Andy knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s practised already this week on clay. I think he has a good plan. And indoor clay is always different to outdoor clay.
“He’s had an amazing year. What he did on clay was quite impressive and I’m sure he’s going to do well in the final.”
Wawrinka’s team-mate Roger Federer offers a more cautionary tale.
A back problem caused him to pull out before the final in London last year and he was well beaten by Gael Monfils in his first singles match in the Davis Cup before recovering to win the doubles and the decisive singles.
Clay has been a major aggravating factor in Murray’s back issues in the past, and he does not have the luxury of a team-mate like Wawrinka to take some of the pressure off his shoulders.
Federer said of his own experiences: “Stan was in good shape and he handled it very well. We played the same amount of matches here but I was dealing with a back problem from Saturday night until the Davis Cup.
“It took me a match to get confident and know I could play, which was a big relief for me. But it was possible.
“I know it’s a surface change but it’s something we do on many occasions throughout the year. It’s not a tournament, it’s just a two or three-day thing, and I think it’s just important that mentally you’re ready for it.
“It’s a great challenge for Andy and I’m sure he’s excited about it.”