Nobody does drama quite like Andy Murray and the British No 1 served up a summer special for the holiday crowd here at Devonshire Park yesterday. After Alex Bogdanovic had lost the opening singles rubber of Britain's Davis Cup tie against Israel, Murray went two sets down to an opponent ranked 627 places beneath him before staging a recovery that brought the house down.
Murray, who had never previously won a match after losing the first two sets, beat Andy Ram 2-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 after two hours and 55 minutes. Jeremy Bates, the home team's captain, called the 19-year-old Scot's performance "absolutely outstanding" and hailed it as "one of the best Davis Cup fightbacks I've ever seen".
Murray is due to partner Jamie Delgado in today's doubles against Ram and Jonathan Erlich, who are one of the world's leading pairs. Whatever the outcome, Bates will probably need his leading man to win again in tomorrow's reverse singles. It is surely a sign of things to come for Murray, who is likely to carry the burden of Britain's Davis Cup hopes for many years ahead.
Ram's singles ranking is not a fair reflection of his abilities. The 26-year-old has concentrated on his doubles career for the last three years he is also the current Wimbledon mixed doubles champion and has played only one singles tournament this year.
Murray, making a stream of errors, looked listless at the start and was broken in the fifth and seventh games of the first set. He appeared to be playing his way back until dropping his serve with a double-fault in the sixth game of the second set.
By the third set the Scot had started to raise his game towards the level you would expect of a player ranked No 35 in the world. The crowd also sensed the change in their man and their support grew noisier as Murray broke Ram for the first time to take the third set with a lovely backhand winner.
The Scot won the fourth set convincingly and with Ram needing treatment to a thigh injury early in the final set the momentum was well and truly with Murray, whose joy in victory was evident.
Murray felt his first break of Ram's serve was the turning point. "I was really happy with the way I fought back and dealt with everything," he said. "The crowd were great. That's definitely the best Davis Cup crowd I've played in front of. They were really noisy. It was almost noisier than Wimbledon."
Nevertheless, there is still much work to be done in a tie which Britain need to win to avoid a play-off against Ukraine to decide who will be relegated from the Europe-Africa Zone into what is effectively the Davis Cup's third division.
If the next two matches go to form, the pressure could well be on Bogdanovic again in tomorrow's final singles rubber. The British No 4 has struggled in the past to cope with the pressure of representing his country- he asked not be selected for the match against Serbia and Montenegro in April because he did not feel mentally ready and the burden of playing the first match here seemed to be too much for him.
Sixteen months after falling apart on the first day against the same opponents in Tel Aviv, Bogdanovic once again lost in straight sets to Noam Okun. The 22-year-old was beaten 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 by a player who is ranked 132 places beneath him at No 270 in the world.
Nerves clearly played a part. Bogdanovic rarely showed enough aggression, allowing Okun to dominate the rallies. Consistently hitting the ball harder than his opponent, the Israeli served powerfully and returned with confidence.
Knowing he held a psychological advantage from their last meeting, Okun took the first chance to underline it by putting Bogdanovic in to serve after winning the toss. The Israeli broke immediately and was leading 5-1 by the time Bogdanovic started to find any sort of form.
The Briton clawed his way back by winning three games in a row and had a break point for 5-5, only to lose the next three points and the set. Bogdanovic had his chances in the second set but played a poor game when he was broken at 6-5, after which Okun served out with two successive aces. Two early breaks in the third set sealed the Briton's fate.
Bogdanovic, who said he was troubled by an ongoing groin problem, thought that he had played better than when they last met, though he also felt that Okun had improved. "I was definitely nervous at the start," he said. "Because you're playing for a team you feel you have to do something extra. There's a bit more pressure on you."
DAVIS CUP Europe/Africa Zone, Group I play-off (Eastbourne): N Okun (Isr) bt A Bogdanovic (GB), 6-4, 7-5, 6-2; A Murray (GB) bt A Ram (Isr) 2-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-3. Tie level 1-1.Reuse content