Bri­tain brush off Mur­ray ab­sence to book last-eight clash with Ger­many

Evening Times - - SPORT - Eleanor Crooks

JAMIE MUR­RAY and Neal Skup­ski were Great Bri­tain’s Davis Cup he­roes once again as a team miss­ing Andy Mur­ray de­feated Kaza­khstan to set up a quar­ter-fi­nal against Ger­many.

Andy Mur­ray ground out a dra­matic vic­tory over Dutch­man Tal­lon Griek­spoor in nearly three hours on Wed­nes­day but was far from his best and ad­mit­ted after­wards that he was car­ry­ing ex­tra weight and was not feel­ing good about his game.

Cap­tain Leon Smith de­cided to leave him out yesterday, with Kyle Ed­mund step­ping in and step­ping up in a 6-3, 6-3, vic­tory over Mikhail Kukushkin that was ar­guably his best per­for­mance of the sea­son.

That gave Dan Evans the chance to send Bri­tain through but, as against Dutch­man Robin Haase on Wed­nes­day, Evans was un­able to build on a pos­i­tive start against the un­pre­dictable Alexander Bub­lik and fell to a 5-7, 6-4, 6-1, de­feat.

With Bri­tain un­able to claim one of the two spots re­served for best­placed run­ners-up be­cause of the num­ber of sets they had lost, it was all or noth­ing for Jamie Mur­ray and Skup­ski against Bub­lik and Kukushkin.

But the Bri­tish pair, who had ex­celled against Hol­land, pro­duced an­other bril­liant per­for­mance, show­ing the value of hav­ing a top dou­bles team in a 6-1, 6-4, vic­tory.

Smith and his play­ers can now look for­ward to a last-eight tie against Ger­many that on pa­per ap­pears very tight.

There will be plenty to mull over se­lec­tion-wise for the Scot, but Ed­mund’s per­for­mance has surely booked his spot in the side along with the dou­bles pair.

Ed­mund has had a poor sea­son, drop­ping from in­side the top 20 to 69 in the rank­ings, and only clinched his place in the team at the last minute by virtue of a de­cent run at the Paris Mas­ters. But he pro­duced an al­most flaw­less dis­play against a player ranked two places higher, strik­ing his big ground­strokes with au­thor­ity, serv­ing well and hang­ing tough un­der pres­sure.

Ed­mund, who de­feated No­vak Djokovic at the same venue last year, al­beit on clay, said: “I’ve been prac­tis­ing re­ally well. I had a good feel­ing about how I’ve been go­ing about my prac­tice this week and my per­for­mance on court.

“I was try­ing to just trans­form that on to the match court. I was ea­ger to re­ally put my­self out there and play my way. I was happy with what I did.”

A bril­liant sea­son has car­ried Evans to the Bri­tish No.1 spot, but the 29-year-old ap­pears to have hit the wall over the last month and has lacked en­ergy this week.

This de­feat had a lot to do with an un­pre­dictable and ex­plo­sive op­po­nent in Bub­lik, who fre­quently sent down se­cond serves in ex­cess of 125mph. That re­sulted in 11 dou­bles faults, in­clud­ing one on set point in the first set that landed vir­tu­ally on the base­line and prompted Bub­lik to smash his racket spec­tac­u­larly.

But his bold­ness also paid off on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions and the diminu­tive Evans was at times lit­tle more than a bit-part player in the Bub­lik show.

The fast, bouncy court does not suit the man from Birm­ing­ham and, pro­vided Andy Mur­ray is fit, it seems likely he will not play against Ger­many.

Evans said: “I’ve ob­vi­ously had two tough days. It’s dis­ap­point­ing. He’s ob­vi­ously a tough guy to play. And I ac­tu­ally thought I didn’t do a lot wrong, I just thought he played pretty good.”

Asked about Bri­tain’s strength in depth, Evans said with a wry smile: “At the minute, the No.1 guy is the weak one. If I’m needed again, I’ll put my game on the court and I’ll try to get us through. If I’m not, that’s all good as well. I’ll be there on the side sup­port­ing who­ever’s play­ing.”

Jamie Mur­ray, left, and Neal Skup­ski go for the same ball dur­ing their dou­bles win over Kaza­khstan

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