By Ros Satar
Colin Fleming/Jonny Marray [GBR] def. Victor Baluda/Igor Kunitsyn [RUS] 6-1, 6-4, 6-2
A straight sets victory sets up two live rubbers for the final day of the Davis Cup tie, between GB and Russia.
Hardly surprisingly, with the British pair of Jonny Marray and Colin Fleming (ranked 16th and 28th respectively) were the favourites for this rubber.
In spite of speculation that Dmitry Tursunov might step in to partner Igor Kunitsyn, it was confirmed that their opponents would be Victor Baluda (doubles ranking of 440) and Kunitsyn (439).
Marray, making his Davis Cup debut, started strongly, but the first break of serve went to the Brits, breaking Kunitsyn’s serve to take an early lead.
The Russians may be ranked some 400 places below the Brits, but were already exhibiting some good tagging shots, especially coming from Kunitsyn.
Breaking Baluda on the next service game, on the third attempt, the first set went Britain’s way in a little under half an hour.
They continued in the same commanding fashion, breaking in the third game of the second set, although throughout the second set, the Russians played a lot tighter.
With Colin Fleming coming out to serve for the set, a very sharp Marray sealed the deal with an overhead smash.
Things went from bad to worse for the Russians, with two successive breaks of serve in the final set.
Although they managed to get two games on the board, they never looked in danger of troubling the doubles specialists, who have only played a few times this year.
A Fleming ace sealed the match and the British team go into Sunday with two live games, and it is all to play for.
And given the closeness of Friday’s ties, anything could be possible, if James Ward and Dan Evans carry with them a sense of self-belief.
After the match, Fleming dedicated the win to team-mate and former Davis Cup regular Ross Hutchins, who is currently over half way through his chemotherapy treatment for cancer.
It seems scarcely believable that at the age of 32, Jonny Marray (Wimbledon Doubles Champion, 2012) was making his Davis Cup debut.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to be a part of,” he said, “it’s fantastic.”
For Fleming, it was his eighth Davis Cup win in a row, but has his sights set on being part of a team that can compete at the World Group level.
“It’s all about focusing on what the team needs to do and my aim when it comes to DC, is to play one of those matches in the World group,” he said.
“It would be a special occasion and I’ve not managed to do that.”
Tursunov said in press yesterday that Davis Cup can bring out the best and the worst in players, and there can be no doubt that both Ward and Evans showed that they could punch over their weight.
In the final two matches, they need to believe that they can deliver.