HE HAS already given much to Unicef with his efforts over the past few days, after pledging to donate £50 for every ace served. There were another 15 of those yesterday as Andy Murray left his latest bequest to British tennis by sweeping past Bernard Tomic to secure Great Britain’s place in the Davis Cup final.
Murray’s munificence in terms of the sport he has helped put back on the map on these shores is already well established. But he underlined the extent of this contribution once again as he went through the pain barrier to take Leon Smith’s side into November’s final against Belgium, with a 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 win.
In requiring only one hour and 46 minutes to dispose of Tomic, Murray shaved 60 seconds off the time taken when sweeping pass Thanis Kokkinakis in the first singles match on Friday.
Imagine how little time it might have taken to wrap things up had Murray not been playing a third consecutive day of high-level tennis? Even when asked to perform only 24 hours after a physically taxing and emotionally charged doubles rubber, Murray responded to the challenge with another straight-sets victory.
Those who wished to watch both major sporting spectacles taking place in the east end of Glasgow yesterday were able to. Because by 2.59pm, Murray had made history – again.
Across the road just a minute later Celtic kicked off against Dundee. But the party was only just getting started inside the Emirates Arena. “The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond,” blared out across the Tannoy, never sounded so good.
There was less emotion than might have been expected from the man at the other side of the net as Tomic’s return went wide to hand Great Britain victory. Reaching a final is all well and good. But, being the winner he is, Murray is not finished yet. He wants to update another statistic.
While it might not haunt the nation in the way that the long wait for a Wimbledon men’s title champions did, it will still feel cathartic if Murray once again emulates Fred Perry, who in 1936 was part of the last British team to lift the Davis Cup.
But Murray was not thinking about that as he grimaced while stretching his weary legs on the bench as Smith was being interviewed on court after the victory. “He’s quite good, isn’t he?” remarked the captain with reference to the weary figure behind him. He is also quite resilient.
There was no mistaking the toll taken by the victory alongside brother Jamie the previous day; the Scot almost hirpled on to the court at the start of yesterday’s proceedings. But there was also no disguising the genius.
It is the chief reason why Great Britain are now looking forward to a first Davis Cup final since pints of milk sold for 11p – and John Travolta and Olivia Newton John were riding high in the charts.
Of course, it was a team effort in that Jamie also contributed greatly to the point won on Saturday. Victory in that five-set epic meant Andy knew a win yesterday would secure a first Davis Cup final appearance since 1978. But there was some understandable anxiety over his physical well-being. Murray later revealed a new back ailment has surfaced in the past few days, which makes both his commitment and performances yet more worthy of praise. Despite not being 100 per cent fit, despite playing nearly four hours of tennis on Saturday, he barely granted Tomic so much as a glimmer of hope.
Although looking stiff and sore, Murray won the opening service game to love. This included two aces. It was almost as if he was seeking to minimise the physical exertion from the start.
He didn’t stint on the way to a 31st Davis Cup career victory. But often, when left with the option of extending the point with a straightforward return or else float a risky drop shot across the net for a scintillating winner, he would opt for the latter, energy-conserving option. Then there were the lobs.
One, during the third game of the second set, left Tomic staring back at Murray in awe, hands on hips. Already one set down, it was as if the Australian knew the game was up.
This had been the suspicion from the fourth game, when Murray secured his first break of serve. If there were any doubts about his fitness, they were extinguished here. Murray made the breakthrough by sheer force of will, forced by Tomic into scurrying here there and everywhere for the last point before the Scot drew an error from his opponent, who was the one looking weary.
There was one wobble before the set could be chalked up as being Murray’s. The Scot was broken in the ninth game, Murray having handed Tomic an advantage point with a rare double-fault. But after the next two games went with serve, Murray broke back with yet another delicious, drifting drop shot to win the set.
A break in the fourth game of the second set, with Murray’s persistence again to the fore, paved the way for a fairly straightforward win over a player who is himself no slouch.
“He showed why he is one of the best players in the world,” Tomic said later. He was impressed not just with Murray, but also the crowd, who managed to keep up the level of support for a third successive day.
“It was tough out there,” he said, with reference to the partisan atmosphere. Australia captain Wally Masur later commented about “a wall of noise”, not a phrase you often hear used with reference to a tennis match.
The supporters even stayed to give impressive support to Dan Evans, whose singles match with Kokkinakis went on regardless of the fact it was of no consequence to the result. That it proceeded as scheduled was the news the boisterous crowd wanted to hear. They were in no mood for going home and Evans’ subsequent 7-5, 6-4 defeat could not in any way dampen their spirits.
Like Murray, they – specifically the self-styled “Stirling Uni Barmy Army” – went above and beyond. Roll on November.