Britain began the defence of their Davis Cup crown at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham infront of a passionate home support. The ‘Barmy Army’ were in great voice throughout the tie, and welcomed Andy Murray, accompanied by team captain Leon Smith, on day one, with a rapturous roar. His opponent, Taro Daniel, the world number 87.
This was Murray’s first action since his loss in the Austrailian Open final back in January; due to the birth of his first-born child in early February. Against a little known opponent, Murray showed little sign of rust, cruising through the match in three straight sets, dropping only 5 games, and giving Britain a crucial lead. The second rubberof the day saw Dan Evans take on world number 6, Kei Nishikori, and whilst the Japanese was heavily favoured, Evans pushed him all the way, eventually succumbing 6-3, 7-5, 7-6. At the end of day 1, the tie remained evenly balanced, with a massive doubles match looming the following afternoon.
A familiar Murray/Murray partnership emerged for Britain on day 2 as they looked to take control of the tie. Facing a lesser known Japanese pairing, the Brits were expected to triumph. And that they did. Rarely in trouble, the brothers raced to a straight sets win, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4; giving GB a commanding lead heading into the final day.
The eagerly anticipated match-up of Murray and Nishikori lay in wait for the crowd on day 3. They knew a Murray win would see the holders into the quarter-finals; as such, the atmosphere was notched up. Playing his third match in three days, Murray, struggled to the first set 7-5 against a relatively fresh Nishikori. The second, was again more even, with Murray prevailing in a tie-break. The Japanese couldn’t believe he found himself 2 sets down against a tiring Murray. However, fitness began to tell as Nishikori picked up the next two sets against a highly frustrated Murray. His racket only just surviving on numerous occaisions.
The final set saw several breaks of serve before Murray regained control. Showing the type of form that has seen him win 2 grand slam titles, the Dunblane man, finally saw off a spirited Nishikori. The British crowd lifted the roof off the Barclaycard Arena as their heroes progressed to the quarters, and one step closer to retaining the Davis Cup. Next up, Serbia, led by the world’s best player, Novak Djokovic.
1/16 Results: GB 3-1 Japan Serbia 3-2 Kazakhstan Switzerland 0-5 Italy
Argentina 3-2 Poland Canada 0-5 France Germany 2-3 Czech Rep.
USA 3-1 Austrailia Croatia 3-2 Belgium