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DOUBLES specialists Jamie Murray and Colin Fleming have put Great Britain just one win away from clinching victory over Tunisia as the Davis Cup clash enters its final day in Bolton today.
The Scots, however, made tough work of their doubles match yesterday against Tunisian pair Malek Jaziri and Slim Hamza, who were overwhelming underdogs according to ranking, but the home pair eventually completed the job in four sets 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 22 minutes to put Great Britain 2-1 up in the Europe/Africa Zone Group II First Round tie.
The win means Britain only have to win one of today’s two reverse singles matches to progress to a second round match against either Ireland or Luxembourg. James Ward faces Jaziri, before Glasgow’s Jamie Baker is scheduled to face Sami Ghorbel, although the Tunisians may field Hamza for the final match after his impressive performance on the doubles court yesterday.
“It would not surprise me if they did that,” said Leon Smith, the British captain. “They have got two guys competing for the No.2 spot who are of a similar age. It depends how Ghorbel feels as he obviously got pretty beaten up in his match with Ward on Friday but Hamza played a good match.”
Yesterday’s doubles encounter turned out to be a lot closer than expected, especially after Murray and Fleming raced through the opening set, taking it 6-1 after just 27 minutes. However, a poor game on serve at 2-3 in the second set allowed the Tunisians to gain some momentum and they took advantage, going on to win the set 6-3 and level the match at one set all.
Early breaks were exchanged in the third set before the British pair broke again to go 3-1 up and eventually went on to take the set 6-3. A poor start though on Fleming’s serve in the fourth set helped Tunisia take a 3-0 lead, before the Brits hit back by winning the next three games. A number of stunning returns by Fleming helped the hosts break to go 5-4 up and he then sealed victory with an ace in the next game to the relief of the crowd.
“It probably wasn’t the best performance,” said Murray. “But even when things were getting a bit close in the third and fourth sets, I didn’t think we were ever going to lose. These guys were playing very well, and probably better than expected, but at the end of the day, we came to win and we did.”
The pair expressed their thanks for the loud vocal support from the crowd, which included a large party of students from Stirling University and a group of young Scottish tennis players, aged 10 to 12, who had travelled down for the day by bus. The youngsters’ visit, arranged by Judy Murray and Karen Ross, Scottish national talent performance manager, mirrors similar Davis Cup trips organised in the past in which all three Scots on the British team this weekend were involved in during their younger years.
“For these kids who travelled, it’s the inspirational factor that in a team of four competing here this weekend, there are three Scottish players who all trained at Stirling University and took part in the same sort of trips,” said Judy. “It shows them that anything is achievable if you work hard.”