Great Britain this week stands on top of the tennis world. There’s a sentence I wouldn’t have dared to dream to write until a few years ago. That I started to firmly believe that I would one day write it is testament to the persuasive and tactical nature of Captain Leon Smith, but of course the majority of the praise must lie on the racquet of the number two player in the world, Andy Murray.
How proud Will and Judy Murray must have been over the weekend as their sons singlehandedly won the Final for Dunblane, for Scotland, and for Great Britain. Ably supported by Dom Inglot, James Ward, Dan Evans and Kyle Edmund throughout the year, it was the brothers Murray that took on Belgium on their own. How fortunate Team GB are to have a doubles player of the calibre of Jamie on whom they can rely each second day of a tie. The fact that we have been able to select from several doubles specialists over the last few years has certainly helped our cause from the minute we re-joined the World Group. If that pool of resources has been fortunate, being able to regularly call upon the services of the world’s second best player is pure fortune itself.
Make no mistake; this is the pinnacle for Jamie Murray, as well as for Inglot, Ward and Evans. Kyle Edmund can hope that the taste of this event will spur him on to achieve his career ambitions. However, it is time that we stop to admire just what Andy Murray has achieved in his. Andy loves his history, or at least he must do, as he has spent his career rewriting it. He was the first Brit to ever win an Olympic Gold medal in tennis. He followed that up six weeks later by winning our first Grand Slam tournament in 35 years. Fast forward 10 months and he became the first British man to win the Men’s Singles at Wimbledon in 77 years. And now this; Great Britain’s first Davis Cup triumph in 79 years. And whilst we are looking at the statistics, let’s go a little deeper into this year’s Davis Cup. You need a minimum of 12 points to win the competition; the British number one has won 11 points. He has won every single singles rubber that he could possibly have won this year and pulled triple duty (playing both singles rubbers and the often-decisive doubles) in the quarters, semis and Final. Needless to add, he won on every single occasion.
Critics point out that Great Britain has been fortuitous this year due to Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer sitting out the event. This assertion is churlish in the extreme. Federer opted out for most of his career so to state that we got lucky this year means that every Davis Cup in the last ten years has little importance attached. Murray would have defeated Rafael Nadal on any surface this year over five sets, of that I have no doubt. Recall how the tennis world marvelled at Switzerland’s achievement last year but it is worth noting that both Federer and Wawrinka lost points on the way to that title, something Murray has not done and which he only looked close to doing on a couple of occasions. Gilles Simon had an exhausted Murray on the ropes at Queen’s Club in July, but Murray battled nerves and cramp to come through a match in which his younger self would have crumbled into a painful mess. After that, the little and large team of Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Groth pushed the Murray brothers all the way in Glasgow in September but again GB won through. These two tests aside, Andy Murray has cruised through the 2015 Davis Cup; last weekend’s final being a fitting end to back up that claim. He dropped just 21 games over the course of his two singles victories and he was by far the best player on the court in the decisive doubles encounter. Andy’s game is one of tireless defence but it is apt that he won the trophy for his country with his trademark running passing lob; a shot I would pay admission fee to watch on loop.
It is my firm belief that Leon Smith’s greatest victory lies not in the lifting of this famous old trophy but goes back instead to the day he made a top priority out of persuading Andy Murray that the Davis Cup was not some far-flung unachievable fancy. Smith should carry on in his role into the new season and have a tilt at defending this title. I maintain that Great Britain have as good a chance as any nation of winning the trophy in 2016. After that, the LTA must ensure that both Smith and Judy Murray continue to be involved at the highest level here. These are tennis people who are only comfortable wearing suits of the track variety. I trust the future of tennis in Great Britain when we have figureheads like those. But for now, let’s rejoice that thanks to a small town in Scotland, British tennis no longer has to be associated with the world ‘doldrums’ and instead can rightly acclaim to being the world champions. Enjoy the off-season!