Davis Cup: Andy Murray sets sights high after return to top flight

Britain beat Croatia 4-1

Umag, Croatia

Three years after Britain had to win a play-off to avoid dropping into the Davis Cup’s fourth tier, Leon Smith’s team on Sunday booked a place in next year’s World Group. They will return to the elite 16-nation division for the first time since 2008 thanks largely to Andy Murray, who enjoyed his third win of the weekend here to secure victory over Croatia.

Playing his first Davis Cup tie for two years, Murray followed up his win alongside Colin Fleming in Saturday’s doubles by beating Ivan Dodig 6-4,  6-2, 6-4 in the first of reverse singles, only one of which Britain needed to win. Dan Evans went on to beat Mate Pavic 6-4, 7-6 in the concluding rubber to complete an emphatic 4-1 triumph.

Britain have not won a tie in the World Group for 27 years, but this weekend, on a challenging clay-court surface, showed how strong Smith’s team can be when Murray is available. The world No 3 has won his last 16 Davis Cup singles rubbers in a row.

Smith and his team will learn their opponents in next year’s World Group first round – which will be played after the Australian Open at the end of January – when the draw is made on Wednesday. They will face one of the eight seeds, who are likely to be the Czech Republic, Spain, Serbia, Argentina, France, the United States, Canada and Kazakhstan. That will be a major contrast with some of the opponents Britain have beaten – the likes of Turkey, Luxembourg and Hungary – on their long route back to the top flight.

Murray praised those players who had secured important victories in his absence. In particular, Britain would not have reached yesterday’s play-off but for their extraordinary comeback against Russia in April, when Evans, James Ward, Fleming and Jonny Marray won from 2-0 down.

“This weekend’s been very, very enjoyable,” Murray said. “A lot of credit has to go to Dan, James and to all of the other guys for allowing me to be in this position. They’ve had some great wins this year already and it was nice to step up and have a good weekend, but for the last two or three years a lot of hard work has gone in. I’m glad to have finished it off today.”

Zeljko Krajan, Croatia’s coach, said there was no reason why Britain could not win the Davis Cup. Murray said much would depend on the draw, but added: “There are only maybe one or two guys just now that I wouldn’t go into a match favourite against. We have a very strong doubles team as well and Dan and James are playing well, especially in the home matches when we have the choice of court. We have a strong team. Given a decent draw and some home matches we could go far.”

Despite having been taken to four sets in Saturday’s doubles, Murray showed no sign of the back problems which have troubled him on clay this year. Dodig made him work for his victory, though the burden on the world No 35’s shoulders this weekend proved too great. The home team badly missed their leading player, Marin Cilic, who has not played since Wimbledon following unconfirmed reports that he failed a drugs test. An announcement on Cilic’s future is expected within the next few days.

Murray was superior to Dodig in every department and capitalised on early breaks in each set. Dodig never gave up, but his last chance slipped away when he failed to convert two break points when trailing 3-2 in the third set. When Murray served for the match at 5-4, Dodig was furious when his cross-court forehand was called out at 30-30. Renaud Lichtenstein, the umpire, rejected his protests, and the crowd continued to vent their displeasure on the subsequent match point, which Murray won when Dodig put a backhand long.

“I played a good point considering they were shouting every time I hit the ball,” Murray said. “That’s why it’s a bit of a character-builder when you play an away tie in Davis Cup. You need to go through moments like that and stay calm.”

Murray added: “I gave him very few chances when I was serving. I got broken once and maybe had break points in one or two other games, which in a best-of-five match, or over three sets on clay, is good.

“I created a lot of opportunities to break and put a lot of pressure on his service games. I made him work hard almost every game when he was serving. It was a good match from me today.”

Smith said Murray’s performance was “professional, high-quality, motivated” and “out of this world”. The captain was also pleased with the team spirit within the British camp.

“The players genuinely want each other to do really well,” Smith said. “I’m not sure it’s always been like that. I don’t know because I wasn’t around then, but certainly it feels like there’s a really strong unity among them all. I can see that by the way they support each other on the bench.”

Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?