Murrays happy to stay in shadows as 'the big man' excels

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The Independent Online

This time Tim Henman did not kiss the grass, opting instead to hug the Murrays. First Jamie, whose bravura and belief had helped him lead Britain to a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6, 7-5 doubles win which swept aside Croatia 3-0 in two days and then Andy, whose opening singles victory propelled the home side along the road back to the Davis Cup's elite, 16-nation World Group.

You have to feel sorry for the folk who bought tickets for today's pair of dead rubbers when they were entitled to expect the finale to Henman's career, but as Tim said at the end of the gripping two hour 55 minute doubles, he has earned a day off. And how.

Croatia, Davis Cup champions only 21 months ago, were there for the taking, crippled by the absence of their three best players. The 18-year-old Marin Cilic and Lovro Zovko, the squad's doubles specialist, did their best to take the tie into day three, but against Henman their best was not quite good enough.

At 33, Henman, on the green, green grass he calls home, was the outstanding competitor. He was the only one whose serve was never broken, the one who schooled and cajoled the 21-year-old Jamie Murray through assorted crises and the one who made the difference.

The left-handed Jamie, his raw enthusiasm channelled by the man he and his brother regard as their role model, played his part, particularly with his speed of reaction at the net. Andy's nickname among the British media is Braveheart. Yesterday it was a name which belonged to Jamie, too. Cilic is surely headed for the world's top 20, while Zovko lent solid support. It needed much sweat and skill to break them down and until the very close of the afternoon, the match could have swung either way.

It certainly went their way early on against a British pair who had never previously teamed up. The British decision to ditch the plan to field the Murray brothers was clearly designed to let the sell-out crowd of 11,400 have a chance to support Henman. Admirable, but it could so easily have backfired.

Murray's serve was the vulnerable area in the British combination and it duly failed him at the most crucial moment of the opening set, trailing 4-5. Cilic converted Croatia's first set point with a perfect lob, greeting its safe landing with a whooping leap. But then it was home supporters who were whooping as Cilic's dropped serve in the seventh game was enough for Britain to level at set all. Though the third set went the distance the Croats lost the tiebreak by seven points to three.

The deeper the match went into its fourth set the shakier Cilic began to look. Perhaps his endeavours against Andy Murray were taking their toll, but when he stepped up to keep Croatia in the tie at 5-6 there was a feeling he would stumble, and so it proved. Inevitably, it was Henman who provided the final sword thrust, angling a forehand volley across court on Britain's first match point before taking his bow to the full-throated chorus of "Henman, Henman".

Andy Murray had said that this tie, this whole weekend, was about the team-mate he called "the big man". And so it proved.

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