I’ll be trying to play a very consistent match.
That is as strong a public nudge for the captain as Murray dare allow himself, but it shows his commitment to a competition that he once, long ago, was accused of ignoring.
Meanwhile, Murray’s Davis Cup singles record has moved on to an impressive 22-2, but he is also 4/5 in doubles, so it is a tempting call for captain Leon Smith. It’s actually a ideal game, regardless if I win or I lose.
France have a talented lineup in world number 11 to 13-ranked players, Gilles Simon, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet, alongside doubles specialist Nicolas Mahut.
It places more pressure on Tsonga, who was beaten by Ivo Karlovic in the third round at Wimbledon and has lost nine of his last 10 meetings with Murray. Tsonga won a set off him each time. However, his feet scooted forward from under him again in the aftermath of his serve in the sixth game. But then Great Britain also has some history on the line. Murray, who had decelerated through some forehand swings early in the set, punished a piercing forehand return to draw the error and break back for 3-3. They swapped ends at 6-6.
An ominous hush soon descended on West Kensington as Murray appeared to tweak his groin during the breaker before cautiously tip-toeing through the following points.
“They have improved a lot”, Tsonga said.
“I just managed to get my racket on that 137mph serve”.
“It was great atmosphere”, he said after the match was complete. It was absolutely fantastic. “It’s a pleasure to play in front of crowds like that and we’ll need more of that sort of support over the next couple of days if we’re going to win”.
It’s hard to imagine that the oh-so-expensive, leafy environs of Kensington, where the Queen’s Club is hemmed in, have ever heard such volume-from crowds and from the cranked-up music at every change of ends, and this was only to level the tie at 1-1.
“I was always on top of James on the scoreboard”.
It was not until the 10th game that the first chance arrived as Tsonga saved a set point and things became more challenging for the Frenchman as he bizarrely air-shot a first serve to concede a fault and then took exception to his second serve being jeered by a British fan. Both of them had excellent grass-court seasons and Gilles, out of the three of them, has been the most consistent in terms of rankings and maybe performances on grass.
“He did (work with Simon) a bit”, Ward said.
Simon sensed Ward’s passivity and broke early in the second.
Tsonga backed up the break at love for a 2-0 advantage. On cue, Simon broke at the start of the third and held to love. On an outdoor grass court – Australia’s favoured surface – at the Marrara Sports Complex in the tropical Northern Territory capital, the 115th-ranked Nedovyesov won on his first match point when a service return by the 41st-ranked Kyrgios went into the net.