By Ros Satar, in Glasgow
- R1: Andy Murray (GBR) v Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG)
- R2: Kyle Edmund (GBR) v Guido Pella (ARG)
- R3: Andy/Jamie Murray (GBR) v Federico Delbonis/Leonardo Mayer (ARG)
- Nominations can be changed up to an hour before the matches.
GLASGOW, UK – The Davis Cup returns to Glasgow for the semi-final as defending champions Great Britain play host to Argentina for a place in the finals.
At the end of an incredibly busy summer, the scene is set for a mouthwatering start to the tie, with an Olympic rematch between two-time Olympic champion Andy Murray and this year’s silver medalist Juan Martin Del Potro.
In what is likely to be an emotional tie for both Murray brothers, following the death earlier this week of their paternal grandfather Gordon Murray, the crowds will be in for a treat of a start as Murray was drawn first to open proceedings with Kyle Edmund getting the nod over Dan Evans as the second singles string.
— The Scotsman (@TheScotsman) September 15, 2016
R1: Andy Murray (GBR) v Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) – H2H: 6-2
While we might have been denied a US Open clash so soon after the Olympics, we have not had to wait long for a chance to see these titans in action again. After becoming the first player in history to defend an Olympic Tennis title, and a run to the final of the Cincinnati Masters, there had been high hopes for Murray to collect a second US Open and to win back to back Slams, after of course adding a second Wimbledon crown to his collection.
It had started so well as well, when you compare his run at Roland Garros, starting with two five-setters, Murray had coasted through, hit a bump in the road against Paulo Lorenzi before running out of steam against an inspired Kei Nishikori, a misbehaving sound system, and an errant butterfly!
Meanwhile Del Potro, whose many attempts at comebacks had hit their own bumps in the road, captured the hearts and imaginations of many with his run to the Olympic final and the US Open quarter-finals.
Having been beset with the successive wrist injuries and continued issues over the last few years, it has been a warm reception for him back on court everywhere he has been – except maybe here when they walk out on court on Friday.
Murray and Del Potro have been drawn as the first match, and Murray, who spoke after the Davis Cup draw, before skipping the post draw press conference with the team for personal reasons, had this to say about the match-up:
“It’ll be a very tough match. We obviously had a great battle in Rio. Four hours, lots of ups and downs, a lot of momentum shifts and that match was mentally and physically a very draining match.
“I think both of us were pretty tired afterwards, and emotional. I think that showed in how we were right after the final point, but yeah. It will be another intense atmosphere here and I’m looking forward to it.”
Del Potro, who beat Roger Federer in 2009 to win his first (and so far only) Grand Slam title at the US Open felt that perhaps too much expectation was being put on this encounter.
He told reporters: “Many Argentinean fans are coming to watch and support us so will be fun for all the players. I think the crowd are expecting too much the match between Andy and me and hopefully we can play good tennis.
“I will try to enjoy the whole atmosphere on court, and then of course it’s a big challenge for us but I will try to be in that position, trying to get the point for my team.”
It is always a tough ask for any country’s star player to turn out potentially for three tough best-of-five set matches on consecutive days, especially in light of the tennis schedule this year and the sad news received.
Leon Smith, Team GB Captain said: “It’s always a big ask. But we do have four players who can come in and out, but clearly the intention is to have Andy and Jamie play doubles and they played great together, obviously will thrive in the home environment as well.
“Last year, on a couple of occasions, namely the semi-final against Australia, you could see Andy was fatigued, actually maybe more physically than mentally, and he still found a way to do it.
“He’s a very robust guy both physically and mentally so don’t be surprised to see him do it.”
Prediction: Murray in four sets.
R2: Kyle Edmund (GBR) v Guido Pella (ARG) – H2H: Pella leads 1-0
If there was any doubt in anyone’s mind about Edmund’s ability to ever carry the British Tennis mantle on his shoulders, it was surely dispelled first with his great Davis Cup debut, putting Belgium’s David Goffin on the ropes in the first rubber of the Davis Cup final, before his young body let him down.
He blew out any further concerns as he carried the team through with two singles wins in Serbia, and earns his place in the team by virtue of a run to the US Open fourth round, where he finally came unstuck at the hands of World No.1 Novak Djokovic.
For Smith, it has been a more pleasurable dilemma as both Edmund and an attitude-rejuvenated Dan Evans are now just two places apart in the rankings, with Evans repeating his previous US Open best with a run to the third round this year.
Smith said: [It was a] difficult choice because both Dan and Kyle are playing great tennis, pretty much neck and neck in the rankings, both have really good Davis Cup experience now. But it wasn’t a question of picking one and not the other, it was a question of looking across three days, which is important, and felt that’s how we wanted to start on Friday.
He continued: “Honestly we’re absolutely delighted we’ve got this situation now. It’s much healthier, makes for difficult decisions obviously, but in the right way.”
Their encounter earlier this year at Indian wells was tight, and a lot has changed for Edmund, who has increased in confidence for sure and it remains to be seen how his stamina has faired. He took USA’s John Isner to four sets, upsetting the 20th seed along the way, but in the past has struggled with cramp towards the tail end of the more gruelling matches.
Pella is no stranger to five set encounters, with a 2-3 record as opposed to Edmund’s 1-2, as he got the nod over the far more experienced Leonardo Mayer who has struggled with injuries over the last couple of years, dropping from the Top 35 to just outside the Top 100.
Pella has played just one tie against Poland getting a win in his opening rubber, so the hope is that Edmund’s build up of Davis Cup experience and his first as a player here in Glasgow will help carry him over the line.
Prediction: Edmund in five sets.
Play starts at the Emirates Arena Glasgow at 1pm on Friday with the doubles on Saturday scheduled to start at 2pm (all times BST).
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