From 25 years of the Tennis Europe Junior Tour:
I never played against Rafa (in juniors) except in doubles. We played the deciding match of the Winter Cups ties on an indoor court. I was playing with Jamie Baker and he was playing with Marcel Granollers, and we lost. I beat Granollers in the singles, Nadal beat Matt Brown in the second singles and then we lost the deciding doubles. But I never played him in singles until we met as pros.
Does that defeat still hurt?
[laughs] Not so much, no. I’ve lost a couple of matches to him since then that have hurt more, but at the time it was definitely a pity.
“I was part of the tie when we lost away to Lithuania in Group Two, and that proved to be John Lloyd’s last match as captain.
Then, Leon came in and we played Turkey in Eastbourne. The pressure was on because if we had lost that, it would have been Group C, which is a totally different format, and not where we would want to be at all. The tie went really well, we won 5-0, then next up we played Tunisia in Bolton, and I remember Leon doing a presentation to the guys in the team hotel.
The main theme was that we were on a journey back to the World Group. At the time, it seemed quite ambitious and optimistic, but it has proven to be a reality. Andy coming back on board has been a key thing. It makes a huge difference having him there, but it is amazing the journey from those days. It would be unbelievable to end it by winning the Davis Cup.
Obviously, the team struggled for a while without Andy. There is no doubt about it, but it gave certain people a real chance to step up and play. Over the years, a few people have proven themselves in this arena. James Ward, obviously, while Dan Evans had some amazing Davis Cup results too.”
A look at Team GB’s journey from World II group to Davis Cup final:
Britain secured its place in World Group II with a 3-1 win over Tunisia. Andy Murray then made an emotional return to Scotland (first time he played there since the 2006 Davis Cup against Serbia) to help his team defeat Luxembourg in Glasgow. Murray and co then earned a promotion to Group I with a whitewash over Hungary.
That’s four wins in a row for Leon Smith’s team.
GROUP II EUROPE/AFRICA 1ST ROUND: GREAT BRITAIN – TUNISIA 3-1, Bolton, hard
Malek Jaziri defeats Jamie Baker 4-6 6-3 7-5 6-2
James Ward defeats Sami Ghorbel 6-0 6-2 6-0
Colin Fleming/Jamie Murray defeat Slim Hamza/Malek Jaziri 6-1 3-6 6-3 6-4
James Ward defeats Malek Jaziri 3-6 6-3 3-6 6-3 8-6
GROUP II EUROPE/AFRICA 2ND ROUND: GREAT BRITAIN – LUXEMBOURG 3-1, Glasgow, hard
Gilles Muller defeats James Ward 6-3 7-6 6-1
Andy Murray defeats Laurent Bram 6-0 6-0 6-0
Andy and Jamie Murray defeat Laurent Bram/Mike Vermeer 7-5 6-2 6-0
Andy Murray defeats Gilles Muller 6-4 6-3 6-1
Photo credit: Dave
GROUP II EUROPE/AFRICA 3RD ROUND: GREAT BRITAIN – HUNGARY 3-0, Glasgow, hard
James Ward defeats Attila Balazs 6-4 6-4 4-6 6-4
Andy Murray defeats Sebo Kiss 6-0 6-2 7-6
Colin Fleming/Ross Hutchins defeat Attila Balazs/Kornel Bardoczky 6-3 6-4 6-4
Photo credit: Roger Sargent
Great Britain’s journey to the Davis Cup final started 5 years ago after a devastating loss to Lithuania.
GROUP II EUROPE/AFRICA 1ST ROUND: LITHUANIA-GREAT BRITAIN, Vilnius, hard
A new low for British tennis, as the Davis Cup team suffered an embarrassing loss to Lithuania who had just three world-ranked players. Despite holding a 2-1 lead going into the Sunday’s action, James Ward and Dan Evans both lost their reverse singles. Grigelis, ranked 269 places below Evans and who had never played on the ATP tour, won the deciding rubber.
Andy Murray had withdrawn from the tie, so young players could gain international experience:
“It think it’s been 10 years or something since a British player outside myself, Tim (Henman) and Greg (Rusedski) won a live Davis Cup rubber. It’s time for the guys to get used to winning in the Davis Cup, rather than having so much pressure on them every time they play.”
John Lloyd, who lost 8 of the last 11 ties as a captain, resigned shortly after the tie:
“I am very proud of my time as Davis Cup captain and grateful to all the players for their support. I’ve been a Davis Cup player, captain and now it is time to become a fan.”
James Ward defeats Laurynas Grigelis 6-4 6-2 6-4
Ricardas Berankis defeats Dan Evans 6-1 4-6 7-6(5) 3-6 6-3
Colin Fleming/Ken Skupski defeat Laurynas Grigelis/Dovydas Sakinis 6-0 6-7 7-5 6-3
Ricardas Berankis defeats James Ward 7-6 6-3 6-4
Laurynas Grigelis defeats Dan Evans 6-7 7-5 6-0 2-6 6-4
From Andy Murray: tennis ace, by John Murray
All Davis Cup ties are important, but this one particularly so. It would be Henman‘s final match before he retired. Andy was determined to see him off in style.
“I want to play my best. I’m going to fight until the last point,” he said. “I’m not going to want to let the team down or let Tim down. I’d feel terrible if I was the one that was responsible for losing Tim’s last tie.”
He didn’t have anything to worry about giving his boyhood hero a fitting farewell. In fact, at times, it looked like a pumped-up Henman could beat Croatia single-handed.
On the first day, at the grounds where he had given British fans so many happy memories over the years, the veteran cruised to a straight sets win over Roko Karanusic, while Andy proved his fitness with a five-set triumph against Marin Cilic. Then Henman and Jamie Murray completed the job in the doubles on the second day, to the delight of the Wimbledon faithful. The brothers had played a perfect support act as Henman took centre stage one last time.
Amidst all the applause and emotion as the Englishman waved goodbye, it was easy to forget what the result actually meant: GB had qualified for the World Group!