The Fixture is something of a sucker for sport at Christmas. Whether it is the memory of playing matches at this time of year as an amateur footballer, or of attending games with my late father, the whole experience feels every bit as festive as mince pieces and mulled wine in front of a warm fire – albeit several degrees chillier.

Peel open the advent calendar for today and tomorrow and there is a new(ish) event to take in: the Jamie Murray-inspired Battle of the Brits tennis exhibition which pits the best of Scottish tennis – yes, of course that means Jamie and his brother Andy – in a team alongside Cam Norrie, the South African-born Kiwi with the Scottish dad and Jonny O'Mara, the Yorkshire-born Scot – against the Auld Enemy (old friends mostly but some are possibly less fraternal then they once were) which takes place at the P&J Live Arena in Aberdeen.

What is it The Fixture hears you ask? Well, the first edition which was held in summer 2020 was a major success despite no one really knowing what it was or what to expect from it. Held at Roehampton's National Tennis Centre, Dan Evans won a differently structured tournament that drew praise from those present for the 'tour level' of play at what was essentially an exhibition. But there was a hiatus last year when the event – now moved to December – was due to be held in Scotland only to succumb to Covid-19 restrictions much to the disappointment of Murray.

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“I’m feeling a mix of stress and excitement knowing we are now only days away from taking to the court in the north-east,” Murray wrote in the Press and Journal last week. “After the devastating disappointment of postponing last year, and the extra work to get everything rearranged for this year, it did feel like we had lost a bit of the momentum.”

This new version of the tournament is a kind of Davis Cup-lite affair which takes on an elongated format of the global tennis competition – four singles and two doubles matches – and shoehorns them into two days as opposed to the Davis Cup's three.

It's a good job then that a fair few of the protagonists are experienced regulars for the Great Britain team. The Murrays famously won the team event in 2015 while the English trio of Dan Evans, the world No.27 in singles, and Neal Skupski and Joe Salisbury, respectively the joint-No.1 and No.4 doubles players, were part of the British team which finished third in a group containing the United States, Kazakhstan and the Netherlands at The Finals – held at the Emirates in Glasgow – in September.

Evans' presence in Aberdeen this week has rekindled questions about his recent threat to quit Britain's Davis Cup team following his omission from the doubles in favour of Salisbury for those aforementioned, unsuccessful matches in September.

The former played down talk of frost in the air yesterday, while the latter said there were 'no hard feelings' towards Evans but did admit that his decision to go public over the matter had not gone down well with his team-mates. Yesterday, though, they presented a united front even if Andy Murray hinted that he expected some fireworks once play gets underway tonight.

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“It was an event that when I first saw it, was seen as being an exhibition, but when you get there and you’re playing in front of a big crowd and you’re surrounded by the people that you’re surrounded by, you want to win with your competitive instincts,” he said. “All of the players will be giving their best to win the matches.”

It's not just on the court that the Battle of the Brits can make an impression on the general public, however. A community project that bears the same name, and is led by mum Judy Murray, has been involved in introducing tennis to children across Scotland for the past couple of years. Meanwhile, Jamie has admitted that a major reason for putting the event on was to give him and Andy more time together to play doubles matches – they face Salisbury and Skupski tomorrow – as they enter the twilight of their careers. And so it is a chance for fans of Scottish tennis to watch the pair in action for what might be one of their last appearances together.

Live coverage of all of the matches can be seen tonight on BBC iPlayer and Tennis Channel in the UK. You can also watch on Jamie Murray’s YouTube channel.


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