Players like the Davis Cup because it offers team competition in what is usually an individual sport but Andy Murray is doing his best to turn Britain's World Group quarter-final against Italy into a one-man show. The 26-year-old Scot yesterday put his team into a 2-1 lead in Naples by winning his opening singles rubber against Andreas Seppi 6-4 7-5 6-3 and then partnering Colin Fleming to a 6-3 6-2 3-6 7-5 victory over Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli.
If Murray beats Fognini in the first of today's reverse singles, Britain will reach the semi-finals for the first time for 33 years. If Fognini wins, the tie will be decided by the concluding rubber between James Ward and Seppi.
The British camp will not want to get ahead of themselves, but may now start to think about winning this competition for the first time since 1936. If Leon Smith's team win today they will play a semi-final in September against Switzerland (at home) or Kazakhstan (away). Remarkably, Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka lost the doubles in Geneva yesterday to Aleksandr Nedovyesov and Andrey Golubev as Kazakhstan took a 2-1 lead.
Italy, with home advantage and on their chosen surface of clay, had gone into their quarter-final as warm favourites, particularly as Murray has had a challenging time since his Wimbledon victory last summer and had been suffering with a stomach bug in the build-up.
Murray saved four set points in fading light on Friday evening when play was halted as he led Seppi 6-4 5-5. When the match resumed yesterday, however, the world No 8 immediately retook control. Having won the first two games to take the second set, he retrieved an early break in the third before completing his victory.
Having conserved his energy with a straight-sets win, Murray felt strong enough to replace Ross Hutchins alongside Fleming in the doubles. The Italians also changed their line-up, drafting in Fognini and Bolelli, who have twice reached Grand Slam semi-finals.
Murray does not play much doubles these days but showed once again what an accomplished player he is in any form of the sport. Every part of his game was in excellent shape, from his bold serving to some exquisite drop shots and lobs.
His partner and fellow Scot seemed to derive confidence from his presence. Indeed in the closing stages it was Fleming who held the British team together as the Italians made a belated comeback. Fognini was erratic throughout, while Bolelli's game creaked towards the end.
Fognini was broken once in the first set and twice in the second before the Italians finally got back in the match as Fleming dropped serve early in the third. The home fans in the 6,000 crowd were being outshouted by the 700-strong British contingent, but when Fleming was broken twice in the fourth set they found their voices. The Britons held firm, however, and their bold attacking of Fognini's serve paid off when the Italian No 1 was broken for the last time at 5-6.
"I felt like we deserved to win because we created a lot of opportunities," Murray said after their success. Fleming added: "I thought we were on top of the match even though we were a break down in the fourth set."