Andy Murray on road to Rouen as he considers Davis Cup return from injury

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Andy Murray’s commitment to playing in Great Britain’s Davis Cup quarter-final against France in Rouen, which starts on 7 April, has been strengthened, oddly, by the injury that has forced his withdrawal from this week’s Miami Open.

Murray’s plans for 2017 were always focused on remaining at the top of the rankings and a key part of his strategy depended on building momentum on the hard courts of Indian Wells and Miami, where he had the opportunity to put distance between him and his nearest rival, Novak Djokovic, after his own poor showing in the desert the previous season.

However, his shock opening loss to Vasek Pospisil, the world No119, in Indian Wells, compounded by aggravation to a minor problem with his right elbow – coupled with Djokovic’s marginally less surprising defeat there by Nick Kyrgios – has forced a rethink. If Murray’s rehab goes well over the next two weeks, he will play in Rouen to test his elbow before the European clay court swing.

As the rankings stand on Monday, Roger Federer has jumped four places to No6 on the back of his rousing victory over Stan Wawrinka in the Indian Wells final on Sunday. Murray has 12,005 points at the top of the table, followed by Djokovic on 8,915 and Wawrinka (5,705).

Rounding out the top 10 are Kei Nishikori (4th: 4,730pts), Milos Raonic (5th: 4,480), Federer (6th: 4,305), Rafael Nadal (7th: 4,145), Dominic Thiem (8th: 3,465), Marin Cilic (9th: 3,420) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (10: 3,310).

While Murray is naturally concerned about his dip in fortunes, the greater worry is with Djokovic. The Serb also withdrew from Miami – curiously, with an almost identical injury – giving up the 1,000 points he needed to defend as champion and gifting Murray further breathing space at the top of the rankings.

Murray’s injury is recent, spotted during a warm-up in Indian Wells; Djokovic revealed via Facebook on Sunday that his problem reaches back to last summer, which will be of major concern to him going into the clay court season, where he has plenty of points to defend.

The urgency to stay ahead of Djokovic has therefore eased slightly, but Murray, who is obsessive about his preparation, needs to finetune his clay court game before the Monte Carlo Open, which starts on 15 April.

Djokovic is no certainty to play in Monte Carlo, where he lives.

So, while Murray begins intensive rehabilitation on his elbow this week, he will think hard about testing it out in the clay of Rouen first.

The world No1 missed the opening away tie against Canada, which Great Britain won 3-2, but is keen to be part of another campaign after the triumph over Belgium in the final in Ghent two years ago. The team captain, Leon Smith, will announce his lineup 10 days before the start of the tie, but will be anxious that his best player is fit to play.

The player they are all watching most closely again, however, is Federer, whose revival at 35 after career-threatening knee surgery last year was crowned with his victory at the Australian Open and confirmed in Indian Wells.

“It’s been just a fairytale week once again,” 35-year-old Federer said after winning his fifth title at a tournament he first visited 17 years ago. “I’m still on the comeback. I hope my body is going to allow me to keep on playing.”

Wawrinka, who had a good tournament and played well in the final, said: “He always had an answer. I had a few little opportunities that I could have maybe done better, but it wasn’t enough.”