ANDY Murray was not born the last time Great Britain reached the semi-finals of the Davis Cup. In the intervening 34 years, the LTA has spent countless millions on trying to develop world-beating players but little did they know that the answer to their prayers would be found in a small house in Dunblane.
Andy and his brother Jamie won all three points against France over the weekend to take the Murray clan, born and bred in Dunblane – and with them, the rest of the Great Britain team – to the semi-finals of the international team competition for the first time since 1981.
Following on from his make-or-break doubles win with his brother Jamie on Saturday, Andy produced an heroic, battling and finally exhausting performance yesterday to beat Gilles Simon 4-6, 7-6, 6-3, 6-0 and win the decisive third point against France. Britain, captained by Leon Smith, had an unassailable 3-1 lead and it was all down to the Murrays.
Now Australia, led by their stalwart Lleyton Hewitt, stands between Smith’s men and a place in the final – and Britain have not been in the final since 1978 and have not won the famous silver trophy since 1936. The Australia showdown will be on home soil, although the venue is yet to be decided.
“It was a great weekend for the Murray brothers,” said Arnaud Clement, the France captain.
And he was right. Jamie was the best player on the court on Saturday and yesterday, no-one was going to beat Andy. Not while he still had breath in his body. The old saying goes that you leave everything out on the court, but Murray left it all and more on the famous old Queen’s Club centre court. When it was over, he wept openly. Exhausted, happy, relieved and just simply spent, he could not hold back.
“It was just a build-up of everything that you feel for the last few days,” he said. “Today, as well, was an extremely difficult match, so I’d imagine that it was something to do with that as well. You can’t control your emotions. They come and it was good to let it out. It has been a tough ten days or so.”
Still tired from reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon – and still disappointed from losing to Roger Federer when he got there – the world No 3 was running on empty when the tie began. By the time he took to the court against Simon, his third match in three days, he was running on fumes and for most of the first two sets, it showed. A set and a break down, he could make no headway on the Frenchman’s serve – and Murray is one of the best returners in the game. The errors were racking up, the winners were few and far between, and in between the brutally long rallies, Murray looked utterly spent. Somehow he had to find a way to turn the match around.
“I just tried to change my tactics,” Murray said. “I was making too many mistakes and Gilles was playing so solid so I said, ‘Just chase every ball down’. I didn’t care how I played, I just wanted to win the match today and that’s what I did.”
As Murray chased and scrapped, he finally got the break of serve after 95 minutes and from that moment on, the match changed. Murray managed to dredge up some last reserves of energy to launch himself into the second set tiebreak and once that had been won, Simon’s resistance was broken.
The Frenchman has struggled to find his footing on the slick Queen’s Club grass. He fell in the first set and hurt his right knee and then again in the fourth set, this time twisting his left ankle. After the second tumble, and now trailing by two sets to one and a break of serve, he was powerless to stop Murray roaring to a famous victory.
“It obviously feels unbelievable to get through that match,” Murray said. “It wasn’t looking great in the second set but, yeah, just managed to try and find a way. I used up all my last ounces of energy and I get a little holiday now – I go away for a few days tomorrow and I’m looking forward to that.”
He deserves his time off but it will be all too brief. In two weeks, he is scheduled to play the Washington tournament and after that he has two Masters 1000 events in Montreal and Cincinnati before the US Open. And then it is back to Britain to face Australia.
Australia had to rely on the 34-year-old Hewitt to book their place in the last four.
They were 2-0 down to Kazakhstan after the first day in Darwin, so called on their retiring Davis Cup hero (he hangs up his racket after the Australian Open next January) to win the doubles with Sam Groth on Saturday and then come back to win the fifth rubber against Aleksandr Nedovyesov and secure the 3-2 win yesterday.
In the other half of the draw, Argentina beat a Novak Djokovic-less Serbia 4-1 and Belgium whitewashed Canada, minus Milos Raonic, 5-0.