Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray spent almost 10 hours on court between them on Sunday as they steered Serbia and Great Britain into a blockbuster Davis Cup Quarter Final showdown.
World number one Djokovic needed four hours and 57 minutes to defeat Mikhail Kukushin 6-7(6/8),7-6(7/3),4-6,6-3,6-2 to pull Serbia level at 2-2 with Kazakhstan in Belgrade. And it was a historic moment for Serbian fans as they hardly see their hero in action due to lack of much Tennis competitions in recent years.
Victor Troicki then beat world number 200 Aleksandr Nedovyesov 6-2,6-3,6-4 to put 2010 champions Serbia into a July 15-17 quarter-final clash with defending champions Great Britain.
Djokovic hit 19 aces and 37 winners but committed 94 unforced errors in his epic win which he described as one of the most difficult matches of his career both mentally and physically. The 28-year old was again feeling the effects of a shoulder twinge and clearly struggled at times in the match.
On the other hand the man who won his country the Davis Cup last year, World number two Andy Murray needed four hours and 55 minutes in Birmingham to defeat Kei Nishikori 7-5,7-6,3-6,4-6,6-3 in another epic duel as his side took an unbeatable 3-1 lead over Japan. Murray had seemed set for a comfortable afternoon against an opponent whom he had vanquished five out of six attempts before.
“The crowd helped for sure. I was struggling a little bit at the end of the third and a little bit throughout the fourth.” said Murray who had been looking at the prospect of losing from two sets up for the first time in 11 years. “There were long rallies, he was pushing me quite far off the baseline. I was trying to keep the points short but in the fifth I had to grit my teeth, fight hard and I managed to get the win.”
Murray hit 10 aces and 40 winners but he too suffered as a result of 97 unforced errors in the course of the match. He won his singles opener on Friday and teamed up with brother Jamie to claim the doubles on Saturday.
In Melbourne, 32 times winners USA wrapped up a 3-1 win over Australia but the result was overshadowed by a bitter row between teammates Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios.
Big American John Isner was too strong for Tomic winning 6-4,6-4,5-7,7-6 to set up a quarter-final showdown with Croatia. Croatia, the 2005 champions needed a final rubber to see of last year finalists Belgium.
Italy meanwhile made sure of a place in the next round as they defeated a Switzerland side without the services of Roger Federer or Stanislas Wawrinka. They completed a 5-0 rout of their opponents and will face Argentina for a semi-final spot.
The other quarter-final will see France who crushed Canada 5-0 take on 2012 and 2013 champions Czech Republic, who defeated Germany 3-2 in Hannover.