NAPLES, ITALY: Great Britain is on the verge of a first Davis Cup by BNP Paribas semifinal appearance since 1981 after Andy Murray picked up two wins in one day to put Great Britain 2-1 ahead against Italy in the World Group quarterfinal in Naples.
Murray was on court for a total of 255 minutes on Saturday, first beating Andreas Seppi 64 75 63 before teaming up with Colin Fleming to defeat Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini 63 62 36 75.
The world No. 8 will return on Sunday looking to complete the job against Fognini. Given the manner of his performances at Tennis Club Napoli so far, he is a clear favourite to do so. If he does not, a fifth deciding rubber will be played between Seppi and James Ward for a place in the last four against Kazakhstan or Switzerland.
“This is why we are so blessed to have Andy in the team,” said Smith. “He’s a fighter, he’s a champion and you see over the last couple of days how much he brings to the team. His Davis Cup record is now pretty amazing when you look at it.”
After play was halted in the second singles rubber on Friday evening due to fading light with the score at 64 55 to Murray, it was the Briton who made a storming start on the resumption, clearly intensely focused on immediately breaking Seppi’s serve. He did so on his third break point and then wrapped up the set with an ace.
Murray put more pressure on Seppi’s serve at the start of the third set, but the Italian saved four break points in the first game, appearing to play better when behind than in front. A poor game from Murray handed Seppi the break for 3-1, but again the world No. 34 crumbled and Murray reeled off five games in a row to seal his nineteenth consecutive Davis Cup singles win.
After around one hour and 45 minutes of rest, Murray returned to the court for the doubles and there was not a hint of fatigue in the early stages. He hit a deep return to set up the first break point of the match in the eighth game, before crossing at speed to put away the volley for a 53 lead.
There was a moment of controversy in the next game when Fleming earned a set point after hitting a successful volley, in which he appeared to hit the ball twice. The Italians were incensed but umpire Carlos Ramos ruled the shot to be legal as it was played in one motion, and Murray then clinched the set with a stunning half volley.
As is often the case, Fognini’s head went down as he dramatically muttered away to himself. He dropped serve twice in the second set as the British pair could do no wrong and raced to a two-set lead.
The match turned, however, early in the third set. Great Britain had four break points for a 21 lead but Fleming’s poor returning let the Italians off the hook. Under pressure as he served in the next game with the wind swirling around the stadium, Fleming was broken and the atmosphere lifted as the Italian pair went on to claim the set with Bolelli eventually serving it out after having to save three break points.
Bolelli was inspired at this point, hitting two stunning forehands to hold for 11 in the fourth set and then two clean backhand winners to break. But the 28-year-old faltered when serving to level the match at 54 as the British pair ramped up the pressure.
Moments later there was a tennis ball floating in the Tyrrhenian Sea as Fognini hit a ball out of the stadium in disgust after going three match points down on his serve. Fleming sealed victory on the third with a drop volley which completed an impressive recovery after his dip in the third set.
Murray’s recovery after a taxing day is crucial after discovering he was dehydrated when asked to take part in a drugs test after the match. He takes on an opponent he knows well, although it is five years since they last faced each other in singles, with Murray the victor in straight sets in Monte Carlo.
“I’ll need to serve well against him,” said Murray. "He obviously plays very well from the back of the court when he is dictating the points.
“Getting free points on my serve will allow me to be aggressive on his service games. I think that’s the weak part of his game. His serve is attackable so I will need to serve well myself and put pressure on his serve by going for my returns.”
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Colin Fleming and Andy Murray (GBR) - 05/04/2014
Captain Corrado Barazzutti (ITA) - 05/04/2014
Captain Leon Smith (GBR) - 05/04/2014
Andreas Seppi (ITA) - 05/04/2014