ANDY Murray grounded out a hard-fought victory over France’s Giles Simon in an enthralling four-set match which saw Britain reach the semi-final of the Davis Cup for the first time in 34 years.
The British number one battled back from a set down to win 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 6-0 on a sunny afternoon at Queen’s Club in west London to ensure a 3-1 victory for Leon Smith’s men over the French in the best of five tie.
The game wasn’t easy for Murray, who was playing his third match of the weekend following his doubles victory with his brother Jamie. The Scot could have been forgiven for showing signs of exhaustion, however, after exiting Wimbledon last week by Roger Federer in his semi-final tie at SW19.
Of the last 14 meetings between the pair, Simon had won just two, although he had prevailed in their most recent meeting earlier this year. The Frenchman deservedly earned his one-set lead, taking advantage of a visibly tired and lacklustre Murray, who was playing for a third consecutive day.
The Frenchman did well to move Murray around, firing heavy groundstrokes into the corners of the court, breaking him in the third game and completely out-rallying his opponent.
And when the Scot sunk to his knees in exhaustion after succumbing to a 35-shot rally half-way through the second set, it looked like Davis Cup history would once again be against Britain.
However, the turning point of the match came as Murray blasted a superb forehand across court which brought him back into the tie and he went on to break Simon and level the set at 4-4. Simon, however, didn’t appear to be too shaken by Murray’s sudden resurgence and held out to take the set to a tie-break. As both men struggled to hold serve, Murray once again battled back from 4-1 down with a backhand and two volleys to equal again. At 5-5, Simon’s erroneous run continued after he could only rally his shot into the net, while Murray streamed ahead with a big serve to grab the second set, to the enthusiastic cheers and applause from the home crowd.
Inspired by his new found energy and seeing the momentum of the game shifting in his favour, Murray continued his comeback and stormed into a 3-0 lead in the third set, holding off an occasionally resistant Simon, who slipped for a second time on the grass and dropped his serve early on in the fourth. It was Simon’s turn to tire, as Murray, roared on by the home crowd, closed out the set with ease to secure a dramatic victory.
“It feels unbelievable to get through. I used up my last ounces of energy,” the Scot said.
“It wasn’t looking good in the second set. I was making too many mistakes but I didn’t care how I played. I just wanted to win.”
Britain will now face Australia on the weekend of the 18-20 September at a venue in the UK, quite possibly Wimbledon, although The Emirates Arena in Glasgow is also another option to choose from. Murray himself seemed buoyed by a possible Glaswegian setting, adding after the match: “I would imagine at that time of year it would have to be indoors, for sure, so you would expect a great atmosphere.”
Britain and Australia last met in a semi-final in 1978, with Britain being victorious and coach Leon Smith and his team will hope that history can repeat itself.
Should they be successful, they will take one step closer to ending Britain’s 79-year wait for Davis Cup success.