It was once written – and probably only half-jokingly – that the problems of British tennis lay firmly at the door of Judy and Willie Murray. If they had not stopped having children after the birth of Andy, the argument went, the country might have more world-class players.
Even just a pair of brothers, nevertheless, can win a Davis Cup tie on their own, as the Murrays are proving at Glasgow's Braehead Arena this weekend. After Andy won Britain's first point of the Europe Africa Zone Group Two tie against Luxembourg on Friday, the world No 4 joined forces with his brother Jamie yesterday to beat Laurent Bram and Mike Vermeer 7-5 6-2 6-0 and give the home team a 2-1 lead. Victory will be secured if Andy beats Gilles Müller this afternoon, with James Ward due to meet Bram in the concluding rubber.
The Murrays, making their first competitive appearance together in Scotland for eight years, have often played doubles together on the ATP circuit, but this was the first occasion when they have joined forces in the Davis Cup. They are only the third pair of brothers to represent Britain after Reggie and Laurie Doherty, who flew the flag between 1902 and 1906, and John and David Lloyd, who played their last Davis Cup doubles together31 years ago.
After Andy's destruction of Bram on Friday night, when the 27-year-old club coach did not win a single game, it was a surprise when Müller, the world No 81 and Luxembourg's only player of international class, did not play in the doubles. Instead the visiting team were represented by Bram, who does not even have a world ranking following his retirement from the professional tour four years ago, and Vermeer, who is world No 971, which is 25 places higher than his partner ever achieved.
Although Vermeer showed a good touch at the net, the feeling that this was a case of men against boys was reinforced by the 18-year-old's stature. The fresh-faced Vermeer was smallerthan some of the ballboys and looked so young that you half expected him to pull a comic out of his kit bag during the changeovers.
When Andy rattled off the first three points with an ace, a service winner and a cool-as-you-like drop shot it seemed that another quick finish might be in store, but the Luxembourg pair proved surprisingly resilient. Bram did not drop his serve until the third set, Vermeer served competently until he was broken in the 12th game and both men volleyed well. Their only serious weakness was Vermeer's lack of power.
The match turned with the first break of serve in the final game of the first set, which finished with Andy cracking a backhand return winner down the line. Vermeer did not hold serve again as the Murrays took charge. The only time when Andy looked in any kind of trouble on his serve was in the penultimate game, when three aces helped him recoverfrom 0-30 down.
Andy said he had been surprised not to see Müller playing, which he called "a poor decision". Jacques Radoux, the Luxembourg captain, said he had gone into the tie believingthat his best chance of winning it was for Müller to win his two singles rubbers and for the third point to come from the doubles. However, he said it would not have been realistic to expect Müller to win "three tough matches in three days".
The winners of the tie will go into a play-off in September for promotion into Europe Africa Zone Group One, the Davis Cup's second tier. Britain would either travel to Belarus or entertain Hungary. Andy said he hoped to play in the next tie, but his decision would depend on his fitness. He said he would want to avoid a repeat of his previous appearance in the Davis Cup, against Poland two years ago, when he played in all three rubbers despite having a wrist problem. He aggravated the injury and was forced to miss the next six weeks.
"I should never have played three matches and I was told not to play three matches," he said. "If I'm 100 per cent healthy I'll play and I'll play all three matches. If I'm not, I need to think about it."
He added: "If I have an understanding captain who listens to what I'm saying and understands what I'm feeling, there's a good chance I'll be there to play. But if I go into a tie and I'm not 100 per cent to play ever single match then that needs to be respectedas well."