Sick Andy Murray digs deep to keep Britain in Davis Cup tie

 

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Andy Murray went into Britain’s Davis Cup quarter-final against Italy in Naples with doubts as to whether he would play on all three days of the tie, but the 26-year-old Scot now knows he will have to do just that, irrespective of whether he is selected to play in today’s doubles.

After rain delayed yesterday’s start, play was called off for the day because of fading light just before 7.30pm with Murray leading Andreas Seppi 6-4, 5-5 in the second singles rubber, the world No 8 having just saved four set points.

Earlier in the day, Fabio Fognini had got the home team off to a winning start by beating James Ward 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, though the Italian No 1 had to work hard for his victory after more than three hours.

Weather permitting – and more rain is forecast – Murray and Seppi will resume this morning. In theory, Murray could yet partner Colin Fleming in the subsequent doubles, but it now looks likely that Fleming and Ross Hutchins will get the nod, particularly as Murray has had a stomach bug and appeared to be suffering with his back towards the end of yesterday’s play.

Paolo Lorenzi and Simone Bolelli are the Italians’ nominated pair and may well be their selection, given that Fognini is carrying a rib injury. The reverse singles will be played tomorrow.

The Italian authorities had pulled out all the stops to build an impressive temporary stadium at the Tennis Club Napoli, but much of their work was undone when the covers which had protected the court from rain were removed yesterday morning. In lifting the covers, ground staff allowed much of the water which had been lying on them to spill on to the court surface.

As a result it was another hour and three-quarters before play could start at 2pm and even then the court was far from perfect. In particular, there was a large area of soggy clay in one of the corners behind the baseline.

Fognini, who later described it as “a bad court”, stopped playing in only the third game as running repairs were made to the surface. In the opening game of the second rubber, Murray stumbled in the same part of the court and thereafter regularly looked in disgust at the surface, which needed frequent attention.

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James Ward fought hard but was outclassed by Fabio Fognini as Britain got off to a losing start (Getty Images)

Fognini’s unhappiness with the court was compounded both by a rib injury and by the excellence of Ward’s play. The 27-year-old Londoner, whose victory over Sam Querrey had been the turning point in the previous win over the United States, hit his serves and groundstrokes with confidence and threw in some telling drop shots for good measure.

Ward went 3-0 up but then lost five games in succession as Fognini took command of the first set. The world No 13 again retrieved a break early in the second set, but Ward levelled the match by breaking twice in succession, sealing the second set with an exquisite drop shot.

Fognini, a flashy shot-maker who has won three clay-court titles in the last year, made the only break of the third set in a lengthy opening game and from 1-1 in the fourth finally made his class tell.

Murray took the first set against Seppi by breaking in the seventh game and looked to be in command until the Italian went 4-2 up in the second. The Scot, his level having momentarily dropped, broke back immediately, but with the light fading fast he had to hang on grimly when he served at 4-5.

Having saved four set points – two with service winners, one with an excellent volley and one thanks to a Seppi error – Murray eventually held serve to level at 5-5. The second rubber – and indeed the whole tie – could have a long way to run yet.

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