UMAG, CROATIA: Ivan Dodig ensured that honours finished even after the first day of Croatia’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie against Britain in Umag.
After Andy Murray had got the visiting team off to a winning start, beating 16-year-old Borna Coric 63 60 63, Dodig gave a thoroughly professional performance in beating Dan Evans 63 62 63. Both teams will be relying heavily on their top men in this tie and both proved they are up to the task.
Dodig needed only an hour and 47 minutes to dispose of Evans, who rarely found the form that had taken him to the third round of the US Open. Croatia’s leading man, who served particularly well, was solid in everything he did and kept a grip on the match from the moment he broke to lead 4-3 in the first set. Evans held on gamely in the second and third sets, but on each occasion Dodig broke in the sixth game.
Zeljko Krajan, Croatia’s coach, praised Dodig’s ”great” performance and said he had been expecting the tie to be level after the first day.
“I’m still positive about the outcome,” Krajan said.
Coric, who won the US Open boys’ title last weekend, showed no signs of nerves on his Davis Cup debut. The teenager forced a break point in the opening game against Murray, only to lose it after a remarkable 57-shot rally. He joked afterwards that he had still been feeling the effects of that rally at the end of the match.
Murray, making his first appearance since losing his US Open quarterfinal to Stanislas Wawrinka, set out to make the match a physical encounter, forcing Coric into many long rallies. At 4-3 the Wimbledon champion broke to love before serving out to take the first set after 55 minutes. Murray’s clever drop shots and lobs told in the second set, but Coric responded well in the third, breaking for the first time to lead 3-1 before Murray rattled off five games to take the match.
Coric said the first set had been one of the best he had ever played.
“It was very tough because I wasn’t used to playing such long rallies and maintaining that kind of level,” he said. “That’s why I dropped in the second set, but then I was 3-1 and 40-30 up in the third. It shows I can play with the best players, but I can’t maintain that level for three or four or maybe five sets.”
The teenager described Murray’s physical preparation as “absolutely unbelievable”. He explained: “I’ve never played against someone that quick. He was playing like that every point. In juniors they can play like that for three or four games or maybe one set, but then their levels drop. He was playing like that for three sets, non-stop.”
Murray said he had set out to make the match a physical encounter, full of long rallies.
“I could have got ahead a lot quicker, but I missed a lot of short balls on my forehand,” he said. “Once I got ahead I started to hit the ball better and was going for the returns more. I think every single break point that I won apart from match point were clean returns. I lost concentration a bit at the start of the third, but then won five games in a row.”
The world No. 3 was impressed with Coric.
“He fought for every point,” Murray said. “He was very solid. He didn’t have one big weapon, but he didn’t have any major weaknesses. He made a lot of returns, served a high percentage of first serves, and did all the basics of tennis very well.”
Murray hurt his back playing on clay in the spring and said that it felt “a little bit sore” after playing his first match on the surface since May. “There are a few shots where it hurts and catches a little bit, but for the most part it was fine,” he said.
The world No. 3 will have treatment on his back before Leon Smith, Britain’s captain, decides whether to play him in tomorrow’s doubles against Dodig and Mate Pavic. Murray is due to line up alongside his fellow Scot, Colin Fleming, but Jonny Marray, the 2012 Wimbledon doubles champion, is on standby in case Smith decides not to risk him.
Dodig agreed that Murray’s participation in the doubles would strengthen Britain’s chances but added: “With any combination they will be a strong team tomorrow and we will have to play at a very high level to win.”
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Ivan Dodig (CRO) - 13/09/2013
Captain Zeljko Krajan (CRO) - 13/09/2013
Captain Leon Smith (GBR) - 13/09/2013
Andy Murray (GBR) - 13/09/2013
Borna Coric (CRO) - 13/09/2013