Having waited nearly two years to see Andy Murray play for his country again, British fans who blinked were in danger of missing the Scot's return in Glasgow last night.
After Gilles Müller had given Luxembourg a winning start to this Europe Africa Zone Group Two tie with a straight-sets victory over James Ward, Murray became the first British player since 1959 to win a Davis Cup rubber 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 when he crushed Laurent Bram in just 52 minutes.
If Ward had been Müllered, it was nothing compared with Bram's experience. The 27-year-old former world No 996, who has been working as a club coach in Luxembourg since his retirement from the professional tour four years, hit two successive double faults at the start of his first service game and won just 15 points in the match. Bram had taken only one point off Murray's serve until the Scot served two double faults in a row at the start of set three.
It was the fifth time a Briton has won a Davis Cup rubber by such a margin and the first time since Alan Mills, the former Wimbledon referee, beat another hapless Luxembourg opponent, Josef Offenheim, in the opening rubber of the first meeting between the two countries at Mondorf-les-Bains 52 years ago. The only other occasion in his professional career when Murray has won a match without losing a game was when he beat Sergio Barberan-Miguel 6-0, 6-0 in a Futures tournament in Spain seven years ago.
"I just wanted to win as quickly as possible and then get off," Murray said afterwards. "I've played a lot of tennis lately." Leon Smith, the team captain, said the performance was "another example of Andy's professionalism".
Ward was attempting to bridge a 106-place gap in the world rankings but rarely looked capable of doing so against an opponent who gave Rafael Nadal a run for his money at Wimbledon only a fortnight ago. Müller, who won 6-3,7-6, 6-1, has a big serve, sound volleys and a wealth of experience, having won 43 of his 59 Davis Cup rubbers.
Breaks of serve are always at a premium against opponents like the world No 81 and Ward could have done without making a slow start. The 24-year-old Londoner, who had won five of his previous six Davis Cup rubbers, looked tight and was soon 0-3 down, having dropped his serve with three forehand errors and a double fault. He failed to win more than two points in any of his opponent's service games in the first set, which Müller took in 29 minutes.
In the second set, however, Ward began to get a much better read on Müller's serve and at 4-3 broke for the first time. The only problem was that Müller, too, was making regular inroads into his opponent's service games.
Ward saved 12 break points in the set, twice coming back from 0-40 down, but was broken as he attempted to level the match when serving at 5-3. Müller saved a set point in the next game with a classic piece of serve-and-volley play and went on to win the tie-break 7-4, closing out the set with two unreturned serves. Ward won just one more game before Müller served out for victory after two hours and three minutes with his 16th ace of the match.
Murray, partnered by his brother Jamie, is due to renew acquaintance with Bram in this afternoon's doubles, but it would be no surprise if the Luxembourg captain asked Müller to partner 18-year-old Mike Vermeer. The winners of the tie will go into a promotion play-off against Belarus or Hungary in September. The reverse singles will be played tomorrow.
Davis Cup Schedule
*Great Britain 1-1 Luxembourg
*Yesterday: G Müller bt J Ward 6-3, 7-6, 6-1 A Murray bt L Bram 6-0, 6-0, 6-0
*Today: A Murray & J Murray v Bram & M Yermeer
*Tomorrow: A Murray v Müller; Ward v Bram
*TV: British Eurosport 2