April 7, 2014
Was Italy’s comeback one which should have been allowed to happen?
GB led 2-1 against Italy going into the final day in Naples. It looked as though they had already done the hardest part in their bid for a first semi-final spot in 33 years. Then the wheels fell off. Andy Murray lost to Fabio Fognini, who had been troubled by James Ward on the opening day. Then Ward was brushed aside by Andreas Seppi, who sent the Italians through.
Should Dan Evans have played instead of James Ward?
Some will point the finger at GB captain Leon Smith and argue that Dan Evans – ranked 28 places above Ward – should have played. Tough call, and the feisty Evans might well have been just what the doctor ordered in Italy – even if he does generally do better on hard courts.
But what was Smith supposed to do? Ward had performed heroics by beating Sam Querrey to help see off the USA in San Diego. Evans hadn’t looked keen enough back then to do the job. He seemed too jaded to get sufficient matches under his belt in preparation.
Could Smith really have dumped Ward for the Naples tie, in favour of a revitalised Evans, simply because the boy from Birmingham was making all the right noises again? It would have been ruthless.
Psychologically Andy Murray Still Isn’t Right
Sometimes in sport ruthlessness is fine. Other times you need to look at overall attitudes and see whether you can help young players to learn the right lessons, to improve the consistency of their appetite in the long run.
Besides, talking of appetite, GB would still have gone through if only Murray had brought his best game to the key encounter against Fognini. Andy admitted he had his chances. Psychologically he still isn’t right. No doubt fatigue played a part, but for some reason he also lacked sufficient stomach for the fight.
That just isn’t like Andy, who normally relishes any team setting for his talents and thrives in the environment.
At least nothing more is expected of him on clay, which means the pressure is off from now until the summer. He has a chance to sort his head out at last.
Meanwhile the wider Davis Cup picture is overwhelmingly positive. Three of the weekend’s quarter-finals were decided in fifth rubbers for the first time in World Group history.
France pulled off the first comeback from 0-2 down in a World Group tie for 16 years against Germany in Nancy. Congratulations to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils.
Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka avoided a huge upset by coming from 1-2 down against Kazakhstan.
Only in Tokyo was the tie not left on a knife-edge until the climax. The Czech Republic whitewashed Japan 5-0 and they’ll be hard to stop again this time around, even though they have to travel to France for their semi-final from September 12-14.
The Italians will be up against it when they travel to Switzerland. That really should have been GB – but take nothing away from the spirited Italians or their impressive victory.