Great Britain returned to familiar surroundings at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow this week with one of the deepest men’s squads in their recent history. Ten years since then Andy Murray was the nation’s only top-200 men’s singles player, they finally had some depth. They now have four top-50 singles players, including the world number eight, and two of the top three doubles players. Expectations were high.
In the end, those expectations didn’t even come close. Great Britain was thrown out of Davis Cup with a draw despite a valiant fight from Joe Salisbury and Andy Murray, who were defeated 7-6 (0), 6-7 (6), 6-3 by Wesley Kuhlhoff and Matthew Middelkup in the doubles decider, handing A 2-1 win for the Netherlands.
“It just sucks because these games have come down to a few points and they haven’t gone our way,” Murray said. “I’ve been lucky enough to play a lot of these matches over the years and, you know, experience them. You know, it didn’t happen this time, and I’m sad about that because I think we had an opportunity to play really well here.”
Team Great Britain returned to the Emirates Arena on Friday for a high-pressure second leg. The Netherlands had already secured victory by defeating Kazakhstan, and after defeating Great Britain on Wednesday, Team USA also defeated Kazakhstan for their second victory. The top two teams from the group advance to the knockout stage, meaning Friday’s meeting was a must-win.
Despite losing to Tommy Paul on Tuesday, Dan Evans left the court feeling like he was playing well. He just kept going, serving well and attacking his forehand without hesitation despite the very slow courts, and he gave Great Britain an encouraging early start with a comprehensive 6-4, 6-4 win over Talon Greekspur.
“I played well,” Evans said. “It’s more of a match to just focus on really getting through to get the win. I knew I was clearly playing better than him, the higher ranked player in the match. I just had to put my game on the court, make sure I was focused at the right times and put pressure on him.”
Van de Zandschulp, the world number 35, also played extremely well on day one, and he found form in his meeting with Cameron Nori, dismantling a poor Nori with excellent serving and restrained aggression. Afterwards, Nori called his contribution “a very bad day” but praised Van de Zaanschulp.
“I thought Bottic came out and played at a high level throughout the match and had a very complete match. Didn’t give a pitch. I served once in the first set, once in the second set. That was the difference today,” he said.
The tie and Great Britain’s hopes for another season came down to the deciding doubles game as Murray marked a crucial 50th Davis Cup match after being selected again ahead of Neil Skupski, the No. 3 doubles player and Kuhlhoff’s partner. Murray and Salisbury got off to a good start, taking a 4-2 lead, but poor service from Salisbury ruined the break. As the Dutch team gradually gained confidence, Murray and Salisbury played out a tough opening tiebreaker.
Murray and Salisbury battled hard throughout the second set, but the Dutch pair gradually pulled away, eventually reaching match point at 6-5. In those moments of intense pressure, they were determined. Salisbury saved the danger with an unreturned serve, then Murray refused to miss a single volley or come back to force a third set.
Despite fighting hard, the British team were unable to progress as the Netherlands sealed victory, ensuring that they and the United States will advance to the knockout stages of the Davis Cup final in Malaga later this year.
“When you get to my age and to this stage of your career, I don’t know how many opportunities I’ll have to be a part of this team,” Murray added. “Obviously, in singles and doubles, as we’ve said, we have a lot of depth. Yes, it makes it tougher because of that.”
After the match, Murray spoke of his admiration for Roger Federer throughout their time together on the ATP Tour in light of Federer’s imminent retirement from the sport. Next week, Murray will join Federer in his final competition at the Laver Cup.
“Obviously he is [Federer] was an amazing player. I’ve been fortunate enough to fight him in some of the biggest matches, in the biggest tournaments, on the biggest stages in our sport,” Murray said. “I probably didn’t appreciate it at the time, but looking back now, it’s pretty amazing. It’s unbelievable what he has achieved and also what Rafa has achieved [Nadal] and Novak [Djokovic] did as well. It’s another sad, sad day for sport.”