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Scot on wrong end of ti­tanic tus­sle as South Amer­i­can gains his Rio re­venge

The Herald - Herald Sport - - DAVIS CUP - STE­WART FISHER

THIS was Andy Mur­ray’s long­est day. It was widely as­sumed that he and Juan Martin del Potro were play­ing at their very lim­its when they fought out that breath­less Olympic gold medal match in Rio de Janeiro five weeks ago but it turned out they were just get­ting started.

No pre­cious met­als were on the line in Glas­gow yes­ter­day, just the chance to strike first blood in this Davis Cup semi-fi­nal tie, along with co­pi­ous amounts of na­tional and per­sonal pride. And in the end it was Ad­van­tage Ar­gentina as Del Potro ex­acted re­venge for that Rio dis­ap­point­ment, a 6-4, 5-7, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4 win in­flict­ing on the 29-year-old his first ever Davis Cup sin­gles de­feat on home soil, let alone in the city of his birth. But if there was a gold medal for guts then the Scot still surely mer­ited one.

Just mak­ing him­self avail­able for this con­test, after all, re­quired a tri­umph of the will. While the younger Mur­ray brother played his heart out on court, his el­der brother Jamie qui­etly de­parted the scene mid-match, re­turn­ing to Kil­syth for the funeral of the boys’ pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther Gor­don Mur­ray. Re­gard­less of the havoc this mam­moth match will have wreaked on the World No 2’s body, the two broth­ers will be paired on a dou­bles court again to­day as they try to re­cover a sit­u­a­tion in this tie which is not en­tirely des­per­ate yet. Real­is­ti­cally, Great Bri­tain cap­tain Leon Smith has no other choice.

Such fam­ily tur­moil may have been bub­bling away some­where be­neath the sur­face but there was lit­tle sign of it on court as these two men went mano-amano in the mother of all Davis Cup du­els, which lasted 65 min­utes longer than their Rio bat­tle and con­tained even more twists and turns. It was the long­est of both player’s ca­reers, the Scot out­strip­ping the four hours 54 min­utes of his 2012 US Open win against No­vak Djokovic and this year’s first-round Davis Cup vic­tory against Kei Nishikori, and Del Potro go­ing beyond the four hours 34 min­utes of his 2013 Wim­ble­don semi-fi­nal against the Serb. If um­pire Pas­cal Maria hadn’t called game, set and match Ar­gentina at around half past six you half sus­pected that the two of them would still be down there this morn­ing, blud­geon­ing balls at each other just for the sheer hell of it.

Hav­ing lost just twice pre­vi­ously in sin­gles rub­bers in a decade of play in this com­pe­ti­tion, to Stan Wawrinka in Switzer­land in 2006 and to Fabio Fognini in Naples in 2014, and sail­ing serenely to 11 Davis Cup wins in Bri­tain’s glory year of 2015, the Scot is be­ing made to work sig­nif­i­cantly harder for his money this time around. After the trauma of Nishikori in Birm­ing­ham in Jan­uary, this was the high­est qual­ity match on Scot­tish soil since Jimmy Con­nors and John McEn­roe met at Craiglock­hart in the 1988 Scot­tish Grass court Cham­pi­onships. Okay so Del Potro, emerg­ing sud­denly after a wrist prob­lem, is ranked only No 64 when he should be No 4. His first five-set match since early 2014 was an­other gi­ant leap in his re­turn from wrist prob­lems.

It was a bit much to serve up ten­nis like this and not ex­pect the peo­ple watch­ing it to get a bit car­ried away from time to time. For all the syn­ergy be­tween the Tar­tan Army and their Ar­gen­tinian view­ers – epit­o­mised by one man clad in an Ar­gentina foot­ball strip and a “See you, Jimmy” wig – not ev­ery­thing yes­ter­day was sweet­ness and light. There were at least a cou­ple of episodes of Diego Sime­one-style skull­dug­gery by cer­tain mem­bers of a

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