It wasn’t easy but Team GB after nearly eight hours of play, eventually picked up their first win in the reformatted Davis Cup being played out over a week in Madrid.
I've found a way to win matches many times in my career when I've not been playing well. You can draw on that a little bit Andy Murray
Andy Murray was forced to dig deep before he finally claimed the opening point 6-7(7) 6-4 7-6(5) against the Dutch world No.179 Tallon Griekspoor and then revealed he hadn’t prepared as well for this tie as usual and was a bit overweight!
The Scot came from a set down and then trailed 4-1 in the decider before claiming a hard-earned victory after nearly three hours.
“I’ve found a way to win matches many times in my career when I’ve not been playing well,” Murray said. “You can draw on that a little bit.”
A scrappy victory gave Britain the lead in their opening Group E tie and while Dan Evans lost the second singles rubber to Robin Haase, Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski finished the job in the doubles.
Murray had pleaded on Tuesday that the new format be given a chance and for critics not to be so quick to criticise the changes to the 119 year-old-event bring 18 teams brings all 18 World Group countries to compete over a week at one site.
He followed that up on Wednesday by praising the atmosphere in the 2,500-seater Stadium 3, the smallest at the Caja Magica.
“The atmosphere was brilliant,” Murray said. “That was the one concern I had about the event, about it being on neutral ground, but it was great.”
— LTA (@the_LTA) November 21, 2019
However it should be noted that apart from Britain and Spain, the other ties were not as well supported as Murray, with Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic being the main attractions of the week.
Britain’s prospects of making it to the quarter-finals look good following their 2-1 win over The Netherlands and they would top their group if they can pull off another win, this tie against Kazakhstan on Thursday.
Hether Murray plays in that tie remains to be seen is no doubt he took a lot out of himself physically in the opening rubber against a player he knew nothing about.
Griekspoor was in fact brought in in place of Botic Van de Zandschlup in a surprise move.
“About an hour before the match it changed,” said Murray. “I didn’t know much about his game.”
Nonetheless the former world number one again dug deep and his experience and resilience proved the difference as the 23-year-old Griekspoor lost his nerve and then the match having held a 4-1 lead in the final tiebreak.
In the second rubber Robin Haase outlasted Evans 6-3 6-7(5) 6-4 while Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski held on in the deciding nail-biting doubles rubber for a 6-4 7-6(6) win over Wesley Koolhof and Jean-Julien Rojer.
In other action Rafael Nadal won his 26th consecutive Davis Cup singles match as Spain booked their place in the quarter-finals with a 3-0 victory over defending champions Croatia who suffered their second loss of the week.
Nadal saw off Croatia’s Borna Gojo 6-4 6-3 and then helped Spain win the doubles rubber alongside Marcel Granollers.
Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, cruised past Yoshihito Nishioka 6-1 6-2 to help Serbia beat Japan by the same scoreline.
Serbia will play France on Thursday to decide who goes through as winners of Group A.
“It’s probably one of the biggest challenges we can have in this competition, playing against France, one of the most successful nations in Davis Cup, and definitely one of the strongest teams,” Djokovic said.
Argentina could have secured progress by beating Germany but lost all three matches as Philipp Kohlschreiber beat Guido Pella and Jan-Lennard Struff overcame Diego Schwartzman to establish an unassailable advantage. Germany will advance if they beat Chile on Thursday.
Canada are already through and will meet Australia in the last eight on Thursday, after Leyton Hewitt’s team which includes Nick Kyrgios, beat Belgium 2-1.