Murray and Heroic James Ward give Great Britain a 2-0 lead over USA after Day One at the Davis Cup
Joe Craven for Tennis Atlantic
James Ward was once again the hero for Great Britain, as he followed up Andy Murray’s 4 set win over Donald Young with a jaw dropping come back from 2 sets to love down against John Isner to put the Brits in the driving seat with a 2-0 lead after day one of the tie, much to the delight of a packed crowd at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow.
Many people wrote Ward off before the match and despite his past Davis Cup heroics, including a win over American Sam Querrey in San Diego last year after being 2 sets to 1 down, he was the clear underdog against the 6 ft 10 American. Isner was dominant on serve early on and it took Ward until Isner’s 3rd service game to register a return point. However the Brit was not at all disheartened by this, replying with many comfortable service holds himself and when asked the question by Isner to serve to stay in the set at 6-5 down the Ward answered with a convincing love hold to send the 1st set into a tiebreaker. Despite not having much of a look in on Isner’s serve throughout the set Ward did manage to get the advantage 1st set tiebreaker forcing the American into an error to take a 4-2 lead. However, Ward’s lead in the tiebreaker didn’t last for long after a lucky netcord winner from Isner bought put things back on serve, the American showed exactly why he holds the best tie break record on the tour as he ran away with things from there and took the tiebreaker 7-4.
Despite obvious disappointment of Isner taking the first set, the Glasgow crowd remained in full voice in an attempt to not only pump Ward up but also to put Isner under pressure. However the American was having none of it at first, and the second set was very much like the first set with he remaining in firm control of his service games at the start. Isner began to make inroads on Ward’s service games and at 2-2 30-30 he hit a crushing forehand return winner to bring up break point, however he was extremely passive on the break point and ended up dumping a routine backhand into the net, Ward quickly escaped trouble and won the following two points to hold. Isner didn’t let the disappointment failing to convert the opportunities get to him as he quickly held to love and once again piled the pressure on Ward’s service game. The set followed the same pattern throughout, Isner was holding with ease whilst Ward was struggling on almost all of his service games. A forehand down the line winner at 5-5 30-30 gave Isner his second chance of the set to break and the giant American did just that to give himself the opportunity to serve out the set. Rather unsurprisingly Isner served out the second set to 15, giving himself a 7-6 (4), 7-5 lead in the match. As the sold out 7,700 capacity crowd inside the emirates arena raised their volume, Ward raised his game. inspiring himself rather than losing hope, much to the delight of Captain Leon Smith and his team GB teammate, including Andy Murray who was watching from the GB bench.
Wardy, who was on the back foot for most of the 1st and 2nd sets began to get a read on Isner’s serve on early on in the 3rd and Isner began to play some extremely passive tennis. Ward certainly wasn’t going to go down without a fight and after a stunning forehand pass he found himself with break points on Isner’s serve serve at 3-2 in the 3rd set. What followed was almost a mirror of the previous point as Ward drew Isner into the net and once more hit a forehand pass to break for a 4-2 lead in the 3rd set. Ward celebrated the break in style as he ran about the court and waved his arms in the air to pump the raucous pro GB crowd up even more. With the crowd firmly behind him there was no way Ward was going to let the set slip from his firm grasp, after some solid play in the latter stages of the 3rd an ace out wide sealed the set 6-3 for the Brit forcing a 4th set.
After a high intensity 3rd set from Ward his level rather unsurprisingly dropped slightly in the 4th set, not that it really mattered because Isner was doing nothing on return in Ward’s service games early on anyway. Both men were holding with relative ease but at 3-3 in the set on Isner’s serve Ward did manage to bring up a break point but Isner saved it well with a nice inside out forehand winner. In the very next game Isner managed to get to get a 30-0 lead on the Ward serve, but the Brit who was determined not to let his momentum be taken away from him recovered well winning 3 straight points to hold for 4-4. Despite being asked to serve to stay in the match twice by Isner, Ward held firm and with a fantastic game at 5-6 down which saw him lob 6 ft 10 Isner he headed headed into the tiebreaker full of confidence. With a mixture of sloppy play from Isner and some fantastic play from Ward in the tiebreaker, the Brit found himself with a 6-1 lead and despite Isner’s saving 2 of those there was no stopping Ward as he pressured Isner into hitting a forehand long to take the 4th set tiebreaker 7-3. The crowd was at fever pitch and as Ward celebrated winning the 4th set Andy Murray roared his approval towards his compatriot who had done a fantastic job of turning things around and leveling the set.
Ward remained in the drivers seat early in the 5th set, dictating play and punishing Isner for his passive play. Despite his teammates best efforts to fire him up Isner looked extremely down on himself and rather disappointed that he’d let a 2 sets to 0 lead slip from his grasp. Isner was able to hold serve but he wasn’t getting any in roads on the Ward’s serve and as the set went on it it seemed more and more likely that Ward was going to pull it out of the bag. At 4-3 on Isner’s serve in the 5th Ward found himself with his first break opportunity on the set but Isner was able to save this break point with a booming serve that the Brit was unable to return.
Ward who had much better body language than Isner at this point didn’t let the disappointment of failing to take the break point get to him, as he confidently served his following service game out to 15 with some fine shotmaking forcing Isner to serve to stay in the match at 5-4 down. Ward continued to heap the pressure on the American and after being 30-0 down in Isner’s service game at 5-4 Ward won 3 straight points, which including a most wonderful sliced forehand pass, to give himself match point. The crowd was going absolutely mental but Isner was quick the save the match point with some rather clutch tennis. Ward did force another break point in this 10th game of the set but Isner held firm and this time saved it with an un-returnable serve before eventually going on to hold and make it 5-5 in the 5th. Fast forward to ten games later at 10-9 in the set an untimely unforced error from Isner gave Ward yet another match point, the American was able to save it once more but there was a huge sense of inevitability about the match outcome with a tired Isner lumbering about the court it was clear that the result was on Ward’s racket.
Isner did manage to force some break points at 11-11 in the set, but Ward held firm and punished the American for being too passive on the break points. Two match points came and went for Ward following this game but despite this he remained focused and continued to pile the pressure on Isner. After some horrible unforced error’s from Isner serving to stay in the match at 14-13, Ward found himself with 3 match points and he made no mistake with converting this time as he forced Isner to dump a backhand into the net and take the match 6-7 (5) 5-7 6-3 7-6 (3) 15-13.
The crowd went absolutely ballistic as Ward rushed towards team captain Leon Smith to give him a massive hug, he’d completed yet another Davis Cup comeback, with this one undoubtedly being the biggest upset of his career. Perhaps it was rather apt that the song “500 miles” by The Proclaimers played over the PA system after the match, because James Ward had figuratively speaking. His fitness was much more impressive than the higher ranked American Isner, who he has now beaten twice this season. Ward was sprinting about, even late in the fifth, while Isner was gingerly walking about the court. A poor run of form in 2015 continues for Isner, as he will be sorely lacking confidence in case he is needed to play a live rubber against Murray on Sunday.
Earlier on in the day Andy Murray ensured Great Britain got off to the best possible start as he beat Donald Young 6-1 6-1 4-6 6-2. Murray was in the ascendancy from the get go, the 27 year old from Dunblane won the toss and elected to receive and broke Young’s serve in the opening game of the match. Murray consolidated the break in stylish fashion, hitting one of his trademark backhand passes early on in the game and holding with an ace. Young managed to hold serve in his second service game of the match after a bit of a struggle but from there on in it was all Murray in the 1st set. Murray dictated play and raced away with the set taking it 6-1 in 21 minutes, hitting nary an unforced error in the process.
It was more of the same in the 2nd set as Young struggled to get a foothold on proceedings, clearly struggling from nerves in front of a partisan crowd. After an easy hold to start the set Murray found himself with break points in the 2nd game after hitting a fantastic return winner followed by a crisp backhand down the line. The Brit didn’t even need to hit the ball to get the break as Young hit a double fault to hand Murray a 2-0 lead early on in the set. Murray was certainly feeding off the 7,700 capacity crowd as he continued to hold with ease, whilst Young struggled on his service games. Murray broke Young once again rather comfortably for 5-1 lead and he served the set out to 15 much to the delight of the Glasgow crowd.
Young was determined not to go down without a fight and began to play much better tennis in the 3rd, a testament to the American’s new found mental strength. Despite Murray continuing to pile pressure on Young, unlike in the 1st and 2nd sets Young was able to hold firm and avert any danger on his serve. Murray was still playing well but it was clear the level he was playing in the 3rd set wasn’t as good as his 1st and 2nd set level. Jim Courier and the rest of the US team was pumping Young up from the sidelines and in the 7th game of the set Young responded to the good vibes to get his first love hold of the match and take a 4-3 lead in the set. After some rather loose play from Murray, who was serving to stay in the set at 5-4 down, Young found himself with his 1st break point of the match, which happened to also be set point and the set was his after Murray sent a forehand long temporarily silencing the Glasgow crowd.
The 4th set began with a hold to love from Young, The American had some new found confidence and was playing arguably his best tennis of the match so far. However, Murray wasn’t at all phased by Young’s revival as he replied straight away with a hold to love to level the set at 1-1 and put the pressure right back on Young. The Brit wasn’t going to let his lead in the match slip even more and really stepped up the gas in the 3rd game of the set, forcing Young into yet more errors to bring up a break point, Murray duly converted the break point to give himself a 2-1 lead, he followed this with a hold to 15 in his following service game to consolidated the break in style. From there on in the 4th set was all Murray as he raised his level to one that almost matched the level he played in the 1st and 2nd sets. With Young serving at 4-2 down in the set some Murray produced some brilliant tennis as he took it to Young and carved out 2 break points, he was able to convert on his 1st break point to get a 5-2 lead. Murray was extremely pumped up and as he stepped up to serve out the match the noise inside the arena was almost deafening. The Brit who seemed extremely confident and unfazed by the occasion served the match out to 15 to secure a 6-1 6-1 4-6 6-2 victory. After winning the match Murray pumped his fist repeatedly and it was clear to see how much the win meant to him in front of his home crowd as he continued to celebrate in exuberant fashion.