Murray Starts off Title Defense for Team GB in Davis Cup Day 1 Action
Glenys Furness and Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Team GB is defending their 2015 Davis Cup title at home in their opening tie against Japan. New father Andy Murray led them off in the opening rubber against Taro Daniel, a young Japanese player who trained in Spain.
Andy Murray d. Taro Daniel 6-1 6-3 6-1
Murray, an experienced top 5 player, looked at ease from the start, while Daniel wasn’t very comfortable on the hard court surface. Unlike most Japanese players, he much prefers clay. Daniel was broken in his first two service games, and wasn’t competitive in rallies against Murray until the fourth game of the match. Daniel would save a break point/set point chance to grab a hold finally, but Murray then held from 0-30 down to take the first set 6-1.
Daniel couldn’t compete from the baseline against Murray, and struggled mightily when trying to play more aggressively. Feeling the pressure midway in set 2, he double faulted to get broken, and went 4-3 down. Murray would then break Daniel once more to take the second set 6-3 and take full control of the match.
Set three saw an overwhelmed Daniel get broken to go down 2-0, and Murray would go on to save a break point and take a 4-1 lead. Eventually capping off the opening rubber 6-1. Murray not only gave team GB a lead at the start, he also kept the match at a very short hour and a half, meaning that he’ll be fresh for a potential doubles rubber tomorrow, and another match on Sunday against Kei Nishikori.
Daniel has a lot to improve and work on if he’s going to compete with the likes of Murray in big matches, he generated very little in the way of break point chances.
Kei Nishikori d. Dan Evans 6-3 7-5 7-6(3)
Team Japan needed their own superstar, Kei Nishikori, to even the tie and give the away team confidence heading into the weekend matches. With the pressure on, Nishikori stepped up for his country and got the job done. Dan Evans is ranked well outside of the top 100, but he’s beaten Nishikori before, and with the home fans behind him, we he wasn’t overwhelmed to face the Japanese #1. The 25 year old got the call over an injured Kyle Edmund, and he has reached one challenger final on the season.
Evans had a tough hold in the opening game of the match, but then went on to take it smoothly to 2-2. Nishikori came alive at that point, breaking for a 3-2 lead. Evans fought back to get it back to 3-3, after taking his third break point chance, but then he peppered double faults in the next game and ended up going 5-3 down. Evans fought hard to keep the opening set alive, Nishikori had four set point chances before he finally broke due to tremendous ground strokes and speed from the baseline.
In set 2 Evans had to fend off more break point chances at 1-2, and generated his own trio of break point chances at 3-3. Neither player could generate a break until late in the set though, as both had steadied their games and focus. Nishikori struggled to step up in the key moments of set two, but Evans double faulted serving 5-6, as Kei won his third set point chance of the set without hitting a return.
Rather than going into a defeated mindset, the third set was the toughest battle of all, and the most entertaining tennis of day 1. Nishikori saved two break points in his opening service game of the third set, and then Evans was broken. He broke back right away however, as Nishikori was smacking errors. Kei would then be broken again the next time he served, but Evans couldn’t maintain his newfound lead in the set, saving two break points, before losing the third.
Nishikori lost his third service game in a row at 3-3, but once against Evans couldn’t maintain his advantage when given the opportunity. Both players steadied their nerves on serve to get it to a third set tiebreak, Evans needing to save a match point in the process. Nishikori would then reel off three straight points from 4-3 in that tiebreak to capture the match and conclude the day of tennis with the tie knotted at 1-1.
For a straight set match, Evans put his heart and soul into it, and he could be called on again against Taro Daniel if the tie comes down to that.
Looking ahead to Saturday, Dominic Inglot and Andy’s brother Jamie Murray are still scheduled for the doubles against Yasutaka Uchiyama, and Yoshihito Nishioka. Andy Murray is more likely to take part in the doubles with Jamie however. Murray stated “I’d love to play the doubles if my body pulls up ok tonight”. A Murray brothers pairing would make Team GB the clear favorite for the rest of the tie, as the doubles rubber could prove decisive. Look for coverage of the doubles tie on Tennis Atlantic tomorrow!