Brits begin their campaign in Madrid with a 2-1 win over Netherlands
Great Britain captain Leon Smith survived a long day of “incredible drama” that saw his side eke past their Dutch opponents 2-1 in their opening Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals opener on Wednesday.
Andy Murray kicked things off for the Brits by chanelling his inner warrior to pull off a narrow escape against an inspired Tallon Griekspoor, climbing back from 1-4 in the final set, and 1-4 in the deciding tie-break, en route to a 6-7(7), 6-4, 7-6(5) victory at the Caja Mágica.
The former world No.1 was contesting his first Davis Cup tie since 2016 and left every ounce of energy he could muster out on the court against the power-serving Griekspoor, who was playing just his second-ever Davis Cup match.
Robin Haase then kept his Dutch squad’s hopes alive in the Group E tie by coming back from 3-6, 4-5 down against Dan Evans, who served for the win but couldn’t close it out, eventually succumbing 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4.
It all came down to the decisive doubles match that saw debutant Neal Skupski and Scottish veteran Jamie Murray rebound from a 1-4 deficit in the second set to overcome Dutch duo Wesley Koolhof and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-4, 7-6(6).
"What Andy did is astonishing"
“It’s one of the longest days I’ve had sitting in the chair. People were worried about what this week might bring but it’s been another day of incredible drama, you can’t really put rankings in it can you?” said an elated Smith.
“Because everyone plays at different levels in Davis Cup, we’ve seen it with other matches here. It was a hell of an effort from the Netherlands today, they’ve done themselves proud, they fought their hearts out, but so have our guys.
“What Andy did is astonishing. Not feeling great, again putting himself on the line, came through an amazing battle. Evo, we could have been shaking hands with a two-set victory and everyone saying, ‘great job’ against Robin, who I thought was playing really, really well. But it wasn’t to be.
“Jamie and Neal played some unbelievable stuff. And for Neal to come out and play his first tie, he’s shone today, did a great job, and to be able to play with someone like Jamie who’s got so much experience in these sort of moments, they combined brilliantly, I’m so, so pleased for them.”
Andy Murray survived 24 aces and 22 forehand winners from Griekspoor en route to his two-hour 51-minute victory, and was two points away from defeat in the decider.
I don’t think I deserved to win that match. I fought extremely hard at the end but he was dictating a lot of the points.
“I’m obviously relieved just now. I don’t think I deserved to win that match,” an exhausted Murray confessed.
“I fought extremely hard at the end but he was dictating a lot of the points. I thought he served amazing. He was going for huge second serves and I wasn’t able to find a way to dictate the points today. I just fought hard, just tried to get one extra ball back at the end, made a great scramble at 4-3 in the tiebreak and that was enough to turn it my way.
“The atmosphere was brilliant. A lot of Dutch fans and at the end I think it was packed, really good atmosphere. That’s fantastic, you want to see that in every match, right the way through, but for a start, it was really good atmosphere,” said Murray.
Skupski could not have dreamt of a better first Davis Cup outing, and says the team’s focus will now shift to their Thursday tie against Kazakhstan, who had defeated the Netherlands in their opener on Tuesday.
“Really pleased with the debut but it’s all about the team at the end of the day, we got the win today 2-1 and we move on tomorrow with a lot of confidence and we have a good chance of making out of the group now,” said Skupski.
With two Group E losses, the Dutch have been eliminated from the competition, with no chance of advancing to the quarter-finals.
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