Andy Murray defeated Sam Querrey of the United States to send Great Britain through to the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup for the first time in 28 years.
Britain went into the final day in San Diego leading the USA 2-1 and as hot favourites to progress given Murray’s status as by far the highest-ranked player on show.
Querrey had beaten Murray in one of their previous six meetings and took the fight to his opponent but it was not enough as the Scot triumphed 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (3/7), 6-1, 6-3.
In the last eight, Britain will be on their travels again and almost certainly on clay again when they take on Italy in April. If they can beat the Italians a semi-final against Switzerland or Kazakhstan would be a mouthwatering prospect.
History was against Leon Smith’s side going into the tie, with Britain’s last victory over the US back in the days of Fred Perry in 1935, while their only previous win on American soil came 111 years ago.
The tie had swung decisively Britain’s way in the second singles rubber on Friday when James Ward pulled off a tremendous win over Querrey after Murray had eased past Donald Young.
That allowed Smith to rest Murray for the doubles rubber on Saturday, and the US took advantage with world number one pair Bob and Mike Bryan defeating Colin Fleming and Dominic Inglot.
Murray made the perfect start yesterday with a break of the Querrey serve – the sixth time in a row that the American had dropped serve.
But with the pressure all on his opponent’s shoulders this time, Querrey was a different player to the one who had faded so dramatically against Ward.
He retrieved the break, and then did so again when Murray served for the set.
Querrey then led 3-1 and 4-2 in the tie-break but Murray hung on and then took his first set point when the American dumped a simple volley into the net. Querrey was really pushing Murray, though, and in the second-set tie-break the American managed to hold onto his lead.
It was the first set Murray had dropped in Davis Cup singles since 2008, but the effort took its toll on Querrey and the British number one seized control once more by winning the first four games of the third set.
Murray was showing his full repertoire of skills and he clenched his fist as he made the decisive breakthrough in the sixth game of the fourth set.
Querrey saved a match point on his serve at 2-5, and the nerves showed when Murray slipped to 15-40 serving for the win.
But he managed to save both break points and, on his second match point, Querrey sent a backhand wide.
It was Murray’s 17th successive Davis Cup singles win and secured an eighth win from nine matches for Smith, whose reputation has grown with every tie.
The Scot took over the captaincy in 2010 after Britain had been humiliated by Lithuania to drop to the verge of relegation to Europe/Africa Zone Group III, the bottom tier of the competition.
Their rise since then has been hugely impressive, particularly given Murray has played only sparingly, with the likes of Ward and Dan Evans taking centre stage.
Smith said on the BBC: “Andy was superb there. Sam came out swinging as we knew he would. It’s been a massive team effort. We should be proud of our team spirit and what the guys have created.”
Andy Murray (Gbr) bt Donald Young (USA) 6-1 6-2 6-3
James Ward (Gbr) bt Sam Querrey (USA) 1-6 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-4 6-1
Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan (USA) bt Colin Fleming and Dominic Inglot 6-2 6-3 3-6 6-1
Sunday reverse singles
Andy Murray (Gbr) bt Sam Querrey (USA) 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (3-7) 6-1 6-3
Match 5 not played
Great Britain beat United States 3-1