MADRID: Britain edged out the Netherlands 2-1 in their opening group match yesterday that put themselves in a promising position at the revamped Davis Cup Finals.
Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski sealed the triumph with a 6-4 7-6 (8-6) win against Dutch pair Wesley Koolhof and Jean-Julien Rojer in the decisive doubles rubber. That match became pivotal after Dan Evans lost to Robin Haase 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.
Britain will hope for as victory against Kazakhstan in their second round-robin tie today to reach the quarter-finals as group winners.
If they lose against the Kazakhs – who are led by Mikhail Kukushkin and Alexander Bublik, players both well inside the world’s top 100 – then they will finish runners-up. However, they could still qualify for the last eight as one of the two best second-placed nations.
The nations would then be separated by the percentages of sets won, or possibly games won, in their group matches.
Eighteen nations are contesting a football-style tournament for the first time to determine the Davis Cup champions, with the winners of the six groups and the two best-placed runners-up reaching the quarter-finals.
Earlier, Andy Murray gave Britain a winning start in their opening tie against the Netherlands but only after suffering a huge scare against an inspired Tallon Griekspoor.
After nearly three hours, Murray, playing in his first Davis Cup tie since 2016 and only five months after returning to the sport following career-saving hip surgery, clawed out a 6-7(7) 6-4 7-6(5) victory to put his team 1-0 up in the Group E clash.
“I am relieved right now,” the three-time Grand Slam champion, who looked physically spent at the end, said on court. “I didn’t deserve to win that match, I fought hard but he was dictating the points.
“He was going for it and taking chances on his serve. It’s difficult when guys are playing like that.”
While the atmosphere on Court 3 was electric, over on the 12,500-seat Centre Court it was far more muted as Novak Djokovic sealed victory for Serbia in their Group A opener against Japan.
Djokovic dominated Yoshihito Nishioka to win 6-1 6-2 after Filip Krajinovic had eased past Yuichi Sugita 6-2 6-4.
In Group C, Germany were leading Argentina after Philipp Kohlschreiber beat Guido Pella 1-6 6-3 6-4.
Canada forfeited their doubles rubber in yesterday’s Group F clash against the US.
Victories in both singles rubbers had given Canada a 2-0 lead to seal a first ever Davis Cup win over their neighbours in 16 attempts and guarantee them top spot in the group.
They then opted to concede the doubles rubber, giving the US a 6-0 6-0 victory.