We are down to the final four in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas as Australia takes on Great Britain and Argentina, in its tenth semi since 2002, faces Belgium which is making a rare appearance at this level of the competition.
Australia’s passage to the semi-finals was the most hair-raising of all the World Group ties. Playing Kazakhstan in the heat of Darwin, which was hosting a Davis Cup by BNP Paribas tie for the very first time, the home side faced near defeat. The first day saw the two young ones of Aussie tennis, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios, crash out.
Between them Kokkinakis and Kyrgios won just one set on the make-shift grass court created in a car park and which was surrounded by temporary stands. A day later the physically big and equally big serving Sam Groth teamed with the warhorse Lleyton Hewitt to win the doubles and at least that gave Australia a starting point.
The captain Wally Masur replaced both players from day one and Groth played the first reverse singles, beating Mikhail Kukushkin. Groth was the hero of the tie because without that win the tie would have been over for Australia, and then Hewitt came in for the final rubber with his aggressive play and defeated Alexandr Nedovyesov to seal the tie.
It was Hewitt’s first ever win in a live fifth rubber and the victory for Australia was in itself historical. It is only the second time and the first since 1939 that Australia has come back from 0-2 to score a win in Davis Cup by BNP Paribas.
In the entire history of the competition it was only the 52nd time a team has come back from 0-2 and it is only the ninth time since the advent of the World Group in 1981 that such a rally has occurred. It was truly a remarkable effort by the two older members of the team and no doubt the calming voice of Masur would have had an enormous amount to do with the players turning things around.
It is believed to be the first time that Australia has used four different singles players in the four live singles rubbers.
While Darwin was certainly quite an experience and had great atmosphere without doubt the showpiece tie of the round was Great Britain and France, two Grand Slam nations, also on grass at The Queen’s Club. It was a fantastic clash as the home side sealed things 3-1 as fans, wearing red t-shirts for Great Britain and blue t-shirts for France, all connected to the fast developing and incredibly well received We Are Tennis Fan Academy, created a stunning and loud environment.
The colour was spectacular and being part of the whole situation along with the We Are Tennis Fan Academy made it crazy in the best possible manner.
It was 1-1 after the first day with Giles Simon and Andy Murray winning. The British captain Leon Smith changed his doubles team bringing Andy in to team up with his brother Jamie while Arnaud Clement changed half his tandem; with Nicolas Mahut he now had Jo-Wilfried Tsonga instead of Richard Gasquet who never got to play the entire weekend.
Great Britain won the doubles to go up 2-1 and then it was Murray and Simon in the reverse singles on a court that continued to remain slippery. Simon twisted his right knee but got over that and was up a set and 4-2 and was so close to a two sets to love lead.
Murray was struggling for energy but yet he found something more and worked his way back. He won the second set and the third but early in the fourth Simon slipped again and this time it was more serious. His left ankle was not in good shape and even though he continued it was token resistance and Murray sealed the tie 4-6, 7-6, 6-3, 6-0.
There was historical significance here too – it was the first time two brothers had claimed all the winning points in a World Group tie since Zimbabwe’s Byron and Wayne Black in 1998. It also marked the first time since 1933 that a Grand Slam nation plays all three of the other Grand Slam nations in consecutive rounds in a single year. Great Britain beat the USA in the first round, France in the quarters and now plays Australia in the semis.
Belgium gained the benefit of Canada’s two main players Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil having to pull out of the tie because of injury and Belgium, hosting in Ostende and led by David Goffin swept to a 3-0 unassailable advantage and closed it 5-0. Meanwhile in Buenos Aires the home side took advantage of the Serbs not having the new Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic playing and Argentina also posted an unbeatable 3-0 advantage and ended 4-1.
The head-to-heads between the nations sees Australia lead Great Britain 8-4; the last meeting was won by Australia in 2003 and Belgium lead Argentina 1-0 but the only meeting was in 1948.