In Glasgow’s Emirates Arena and far away Serbia, Day-1 brought similar results in Davis Cup World Group first-round matches. In Glasgow, the proceedings began with Britain’s no.1 player taking the first singles from Donald Young before watching the next singles match from sidelines with his team members. And what a match it turned out to be for Great Britain! Egged on by vociferous home support, world no. 111, James Ward came out as winner against world no.20 John Isner in a 5-hour 5-set battle, the last set of which was decided at 15-13. In Kraljevo Arena at Serbia, the home side also took a 2-0 lead on the opening day. It was the first ever world-level tennis tournament in Kraljevo and the stadium was packed to the brim. Just as Murray did at Glasgow, Novak Djokovic too played the first singles match and put Serbia 1-0 ahead with the next match to follow. Viktor Troicki was playing against Croat teen-sensation Borna Coric. Like James Ward at Glasgow, Troicki lost the first two sets and then staged a valiant fight back. To the great delight of the Kraljevo Arena crowd, Troicki wore down Coric to emerge victorious in 5 sets. But more importantly, he created a 2-0 first day lead for his country.
It was a big moment for Glasgow residents as their own Andy Murray was playing amidst them. The Scotsman didn’t disappoint as he put Great Britain 1-0 ahead with an impressive 6-1, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 victory. But what kept spectators on edge for five hours afterwards, was the fantastic display from James Ward. The Briton faced world no.20, John Isner, generally considered the favorite to win the second singles on first day. However, Ward was not overawed by Isner’s reputation and began with taking the first set to tiebreak before losing it. The fight continued in the second set before Isner edged out Ward at 7-5. Then Ward began the spirited fight back. He easily won the third set 6-3 but the fourth went to the tiebreak as well. This time Ward showed his tenacity and leveled the set scores to 2-2 by taking the tiebreak. Now everything rested on final set. Isner is known to be adept at playing long matches and he kept going against Ward on services in the final set. Tennis lovers recalled Isner’s first-round match in Wimbledon 2010 against Nicolas Mahut that lasted 11 hours, where the final set ended at 70-68. That match created tennis history as the longest match both by time and number of games played. The final set itself lasted 8 hours, 11 minutes. In Glasgow against Ward, Isner was not worried as he only needed to keep holding his serve and wait for Ward to lapse into making errors. But that didn’t happen as the American began struggling in the final games of the 111-minute fifth set. He lost almost all rallies and most of his points came from aces or serves that Ward couldn’t return. Isner saved two match points in the 10th game, another in 20th game and two more in the 22nd. In the 28th game, Ward held three match points on the American’s serve. When Isner crashed a low volley into the net, the Emirates Arena erupted with unbridled joy. Ward flung his racket toward the net and fell into the arms of Leon Smith, the captain of the British team. Then he embraced Murray, who was literally in tears. The tie is, by no means, over yet as the doubles between Bryan brothers and Jamie Murray/Dominic Inglot is slated for Saturday and reverse singles on Sunday.
It was an identical scenario at Kraljevo, where Novak Djokovic began by beating Mate Delic 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 and putting Serbia 1-0 ahead. Then the entire attention was focused in the match between Viktor Troicki and Borna Coric. The Croatian teenager took the first two sets 6-4, 6-1 and looked like scoring an easy victory. But the Serb pulled himself from the brink by bouncing back to take the next two 6-3, 6-2. Once set scores were leveled, Troicki played forcefully and eked out an easy final set at 6-1 to take Serbia 2-0 ahead on the first day.
In other matches on Day-1, Italy and Kazakhstan ended 1-1. After Mikhail Kukushkin defeated Simone Bolelli 7-6, 6-1, 6-2, Andreas Seppi made it level by defeating Andrey Golubev 6-3, 6-3, 6-7, 6-2. In Liege, defending champions Switzerland also split the first day honors with Belgium. After the Swiss Henri Laaksonen won a five-setter against Ruben Bemelmans, Belgian Steve Darcis squared up with a straight sets win over Michael Lammer. Australia took a 2-0 lead over the Czech Republic and so did France against Germany. Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis recovered from two sets down to beat Lukas Rosol in five sets and Bernard Tomic scored a straight sets win over Jiri Vesely. At Frankfurt, Gael Monfils served 17 aces to beat Kohlschrieber in three sets and Gilles Simon took five sets before overcoming Jan-Lennard Struff. Argentina and Brazil finished level 1-1 in Buenos Aires. Brazil began with a 1-0 lead, when Joao Souza beat Carlos Berlocq in five sets but Leonardo made it 1-1 with a victory over Thomas Bellucci.
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