It seems highly likely Andy Murray will play in the doubles with his brother, Jamie, on Saturday after trouncing Thanasi Kokkinakis in an hour and 47 minutes, then watching Dan Evans lose bravely to Bernard Tomic in four sets as Australia levelled a fascinating Davis Cup semi-final in Glasgow.
Murray tried to avoid saying so after his 6-3, 6-0, 6-3 win in the opening match but the hint was strong enough. “It isn’t my decision. It’s up to the captain to decide that but I now have the option to be picked because this match was quick.”
Pressed further, he added: “I think everyone in the team wants to play, everyone wants to try to help where they can. The players have a job to do but we don’t make the decisions.”
The Murray brothers won the doubles against France in the quarter-finals, as well as Andy winning both his singles, and that came immediately after Wimbledon, where he reached the semi-finals. This time he has been able to rest after going out early at the US Open.
The dilemma for the team captain, Leon Smith – who already has gambled in picking 300th-ranked Evans in favour of the injured Kyle Edmund and the out-of-form James Ward – is whether or not to repeat his quarter-final formula. Certainly a packed Emirates Arena would appreciate it if the two Scots played together again.
Britain have won eight out of their last nine Davis Cup home ties, which says a lot for the crowd support, as Murray acknowledged. “My results speak for themselves. I don’t know why I play better when I play for my country but I have,” he said. “It’s a big occasion and to have the crowd behind you makes a huge difference.
“It’s the same in every single sport. I don’t know any football teams that play worse when they play at home. And all the British athletes performed better at the Olympics when it was held in London.
“The last time we played here it was extremely loud, and again today the support was fantastic. There was loads of noise from first point to last.”
Kokkinakis, who has practised a lot with Murray, said, “That’s the best he’s ever played against me. I just got killed.”
The Australia coach, Wally Masur, said he would “definitely” stick with Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Groth for the doubles and fully expected their opponents to be the Murray brothers. “With all respect to Dom Inglot, I’d be very surprised if that is not their team,” he said.
Murray can hardly ever have served better. He won an astounding 48 of 54 points on his own serve, hitting a success rate of 93% on his first serve – his best effort in 215 best-of-five-set matches. Three of the points he conceded were from double faults, which shows how tough Kokkinakis found it to penetrate not just Murray’s serve but his defence on those rare occasions when he tried to pressure him.
The second rubber was a contrast in styles, yet the games of Evans and Tomic gelled perfectly, each regularly beefing up his first serves above 120mph, allowing them to use their wit and power off the ground. There were a lot of clever short-court exchanges in a match that entertained the packed arena from start to finish.
Tomic struck eight aces and broke onlyonce from six chances to take the first set, without giving Evans a sniff. When he started to pull away in the second it did not look good for Evans but he dug deep to find something special and, from a set and 3-1 down, he won 12 of 14 points to go 4-3 up after nearly an hour but had to fight through deuce to hold.
They were playing at similar levels, trading one smart shot after another all the way to the tie-break, where Evans got a bit loose and found himself two sets down. He had the added burden of a muscle strain in his right calf, treated during the break – and caused no doubt by the extra running and turning Tomic was making him do.
Evans began to feel the weight of Tomic’s groundstrokes in the third set and struggled to rediscover his earlier rhythm. But he fought back hard again, from 0-3 to get back on serve at 4-5 and force another shoot-out, then won the set with some startling acrobatics. Yet again Evans fell behind at the start of a frame Tomic breaking in the first game of the fourth set, and he had more work on his leg after the third game. But the Australian was showing signs of back strain and probably was suffering as much physically as his opponent.
He broke again for 5-2 despite some lovely touches at the net from Evans, then looked utterly spent when two points from winning, and the match stayed live a little longer. Evans dashed for the bathroom after holding for 4-5. Trying to win it on his serve for a second time, Tomic was grimacing in discomfort, battling to move and smacking his ground shots from memory, but somehow he got the job done 6-3, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 in just under three hours.
Belgium and Argentina were also level at 1-1 in the other semi-final in Brussels.