September 18, 2015
Great Britain and Australia couldn’t be separated on day one of what promises to be an increasingly dramatic Davis Cup semi-final, the Brits’ first in 34 years.
Glasgow was rocking as Andy Murray performed like a dream in front of his home fans. He disposed of the talented Aussie youngster Thanakis Kokkinakis 6-3, 6-0, 6-3 in the first match.
The contest was never in doubt after Murray broke in the sixth game. Having already squandered several break points, the Scottish favourite stayed cool to mount fresh pressure, which Kokkinakis was ultimately unable to handle.
Murray backed up the breakthrough with two emphatic service games and then emphasised his total superiority by waltzing through the second set practically unhindered.
To his credit, Kokkinakis raised his game again in the third, but Murray will be delighted to have come through what was deemed to be a tricky opener unscathed.
That way he was able to conserve his energy for the more demanding final two days of the tie.
Dan Evans was caught somewhat cold in the first set of his match with the highly-fancied Australian, Bernard Tomic. Birmingham-based Evans fought back with typical aggression in the second, seeming to justify his surprise inclusion in the team. In fact, Dan The Man was just two points from taking that second set, at 6-5 and 15-30 on the Tomic serve.
But the Aussie hot-head showed some grit to recover and force a tie-break. At that key moment in the battle, Evans seemed to lose his composure, firing a succession of wild unforced errors on the forehand. Tomic was never really tested when it mattered and ran out a 7-2 winner in the breaker.
Evans won a marathon ninth game to put the third set back on serve and extract more energy from Tomic. Indeed the Australian called the trainer before he re-entered the fray.
The third-set tie-break was a classic and Evans conjured an incredible drop-shot to achieve the two-point cushion. A superb pick-up helped clinch the breaker and force the match into a draining fourth set.
Just when Evans had all the momentum, he allowed himself to be broken in the first game of the fourth – the classic sucker-punch. But he fought like a lion to try to stay in the match – and GB may have reason to be grateful come Sunday.
The final score of , 6-3, 7-6 (7-2), 6-7 (4-7). 6-4 was deserved by Australia in the end. Any visiting player who wins in this cauldron deserves credit. But that feisty Evans stubborn streak could yet have an impact on a mouthwatering final day.
Tomic certainly didn’t breeze through his opener like Murray, who will therefore feel that he can remain as fresh as his adversary for Sunday’s much-anticipated showdown.
If either nation can feel more content with 1-1 after the first day, it must be GB. With so much resting on Andy Murray, the swift manner of his victory against a potentially dangerous opponent could be considered a vital success; whereas Evans’ defeat, bearing in mind his lowly ranking these days, was almost to be expected.
On Saturday, the Murray brothers, Andy and Jamie, will take on Aussie legend Lleyton Hewitt and huge-serving Sam Roth. That will surely be the pivotal match in the tie.
If the atmosphere was incredible on Friday, just wait for the weekend! How does tennis keep doing this to us? It is without doubt the most consistently entertaining sport, for sheer quality and gladiatorial drama, on the planet.