Victory over Tunisia, but GB pair make it hard slog

  • @PaulN54

Considering that even Tunisia's players admit their country is more successful at handball and petanque, Britain should not have been expecting anything other than an emphatic victory in this weekend's Davis Cup tie.

Such an outcome moved a step closer when success in yesterday's doubles sent Britain into a 2-1 lead, though Jamie Murray and Colin Fleming did not win as comfortably as they might have hoped, having to overcome a second-set slump to beat Malek Jaziri and Slim Hamza 6-1 3-6 6-3 6-4.

Britain now need to win just one of today's reverse singles to clinch this first-round tie in the Europe/ Africa Zone Group Two. James Ward is first up against Jaziri, who showed in his victory over Jamie Baker on Friday that he is a more than competent player.

Baker is then due to play Sami Ghorbel, a 19-year-old student who does not even have a world ranking and took just two games off Ward on Friday. However, given Hamza's solid performance in the doubles it would be no surprise if he was given the opportunity if the match goes to a fifth rubber.

When Murray and Fleming took the first set, breaking Jaziri's serve twice, the Scots appeared to be coasting, but the Tunisians gained confidence after Hamza held serve in the third game of the second set from 0-40 down.

The 18-year-old looked sharp at the net and began to hit the ball with more conviction, while Jaziri again struck his forehands with power and assurance. Fleming dropped his serve in the sixth game and the Tunisians served out to level at one set apiece.

The Scottish pair responded well in the third set, although they conceded an early advantage when Murray was broken in the third game. Hamza, however, immediately dropped his serve to put Murray and Fleming back in command.

Nevertheless, it was not all effortless from that point as the Britons had to come from behind before takingthe fourth set, Fleming completing victory with an ace.

"It was maybe a little bit trickier than what we had expected," Leon Smith, Britain's captain, said. "The young guy played really well. He started making a lot of balls. His backhand was pretty good and Jaziri showed again that he's a pretty talented player. But I thought the boys responded well in the fourth set and showed why they are the established tour pair." Murray added: "It probably wasn't the best performance, but even if things were getting closer in the third or fourth set I didn't ever think we were going to lose. They probably played better than we had expected but at the end of the day we came to win and we won."

Today's winners will face a second-round tie in July against Luxembourg or Ireland, who are meeting thisweekend in Dublin.

Britain would have to win both that match, in which Andy Murray is likelyto play, and a third-round encounter with Belarus, Bulgaria or Hungary in September in order to return to Europe/Africa Group One, the Davis Cup's second tier, from which they were relegated two years ago. Today's losers will meet in a relegation play-off in July to decide who will be relegated to Europe/Africa Group Three, the competition's bottom division.