UMAG, CROATIA: Andy Murray and Colin Fleming today put Great Britain within one victory of a return to the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group.
The two Scots, who played together for the first time since their junior days when they reached the final of the Masters 1000 tournament in Montreal last month, beat Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic 63 62 67 61 to give the visiting team a 2-1 lead at the end of the second day.
While Murray does not play doubles regularly these days, he is a brilliant exponent of the game and was the afternoon’s outstanding performer. The world No. 3 had been a fitness doubt after reporting a sore back following his victory in his opening singles rubber against Borna Coric, but did not appear to be suffering any ill-effects and led the way with some splendid play from the back of the court and at the net.
Dodig and Pavic paid for their poor start, though their recovery in the third set was admirable. Pavic, aged 20, was making his Davis Cup debut and looked nervous in the early stages, which seemed to affect Dodig. Nevertheless, the two men had played together before and indeed reached the semifinals of the ATP event at this venue last year.
Dodig, moreover, has a fine doubles record, having reached the Wimbledon final and the US Open semifinals this summer in partnership with Marcelo Melo. He is world No. 21 in doubles, which is 14 places higher than his singles ranking.
The early pattern was established when Pavic dropped his serve in the second game after putting a half-volley wide. The Britons also took an early grip on the second set. Dodig, serving at 1-1, recovered from 0-40 to 30-40, only for Murray to win the game with a wonderfully inventive forehand winner down the line. Dodig was broken again four games later.
When Pavic dropped serve in the opening game of the third set it seemed that the end might be swift, but the Croatians battled back. They forced their first break points when Murray served at 1-0 and broke the Wimbledon champion after Dodig thundered a big return down the middle.
Dodig, however, having served superbly in his victory over Dan Evans on day one, was broken for the third game in succession as Britain restored their advantage in the following game. The home team, nevertheless, levelled at 4-4 by breaking Fleming for the first time and came from 0-3 down to win the tie-break 8-6, Fleming double-faulting on set point.
The home crowd were on their feet at this stage, driving their team forward, only for the Britons to silence them by breaking Pavic in the second game of the fourth set. The youngster was broken again to give Fleming the chance to serve out for victory, which was secured after two hours and 41 minutes on the Britons’ second match point.
With Murray in such fine form, Leon Smith’s team will be confident of securing their return to the World Group for the first time since 2008 in tomorrow’s reverse singles. Murray is due to face Dodig in the fourth rubber, with Evans scheduled to face Coric in the fifth.
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Andy Murray (GBR) and Colin Fleming (GBR)
Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic (CRO) - 14/09/2013
Captain Zeljko Krajan (CRO) - 14/09/2013