Murray brothers move Britain into Davis Cup lead over Japan

Hugs all round as Andy and Jamie Murray celebrate a straightforward doubles victory in Birminghams Barclaycard Arena. Photograph: Jordan Mansfield/Getty
Hugs all round as Andy and Jamie Murray celebrate a straightforward doubles victory in Birminghams Barclaycard Arena. Photograph: Jordan Mansfield/Getty
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Yoshihito Nishioka and Yakutaka Uchiyama proved no match for the Murray brothers as Great Britain moved into a 2-1 lead in their Davis Cup clash with Japan in Birmingham.

The brothers had some fierce battles before delivering the three wins that helped Britain claim the title last year but this was a different story.

It looked a mismatch on paper and, although they performed admirably, the Japanese did not create a single break point as Britain triumphed 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 at a packed and noisy Barclaycard Arena.

The hosts made the expected change to their team as Andy Murray replaced Dom Inglot but Kei Nishikori sat out the rubber for Japan.

British captain Leon Smith confirmed on Friday the plan was for Andy Murray to play provided there were no ill effects from his first competitive match for more than a month.

The new father had swiftly dispatched Taro Daniel to get Britain’s defence of their Davis Cup title off to a winning start before Japan’s No.1 Nishikori battled past Dan Evans. Nishikori had hinted on Friday that he, too, would play but, having needed close to three hours to see off Evans, the decision was made to rest him as Japan stuck with their nominated team.

Even with Nishikori, Japan would have been underdogs for the rubber, and captain Minoru Ueda appeared to have decided their best chance of winning the tie was for a rested Nishikori to face Andy Murray today.

That is now a must-win rubber for the visitors, who would also need to triumph in a potential deciding fifth match between Evans and Daniel.

Neither Nishioka or Uchiyama is in the top 100 in singles or doubles – although 20-year-old Nishioka is a rising talent.

They held their own for longer than might have been expected but in the seventh game the brothers piled pressure on Nishioka’s serve and Andy drilled a return down the line to make the breakthrough.

The 28-year-old’s zeal for the competition really is something to behold, and he was roaring and fist-pumping when Jamie swatted away a volley to clinch the first set.

Smith rates Jamie as the best doubles player in the world following his Australian Open triumph with Bruno Soares in January.

He was slightly slow to get going here but stepped up at the end of the first and start of the second set as Britain claimed a second successive break.

Nishioka stands only 5ft 7in and his serve was proving much to the liking of Andy, who forced another break that all but wrapped up the second. The job of the Japanese pair now was principally to keep Andy on court for as long as possible.

They did a decent job in the third set, Uchiyama in particular frustrating the Murrays, but it was he who dropped serve to leave Andy serving for the match. And he completed the job with an ace, just as he had in his singles on Friday.

Jamie said: “We played a great match. It wasn’t easy, those guys came out with a lot of good shots. I loved being out here. It was a great experience again for me.”

Andy added: “We know each other’s games extremely well so that helps. My strengths and Jamie’s strengths make a good team.

“Both of us served very well today and Jamie’s obviously one of the best net players in the world. That helps a lot in doubles and when I can get a few returns together we are a good team. It was a good win today.”

Nishikori is the highest-ranked player Andy has played in the Davis Cup, but the Scot has won five of their previous six matches. He said: “I played well against him last year. He’s ranked six in the world, so he’s one of the best.

“It’s obviously going to be extremely tough, but I’m playing well and hopefully I can play a good one tomorrow and try and seal the win. But if not Dan is capable of winning his match as well.”