Australia are bracing for Murray-mania after Bernard Tomic’s fighting win over lowly-ranked Dan Evans left the blockbuster Davis Cup semi-final in Glasgow on a knife edge.
Tomic overcame physical exhaustion and inspired performance from the 300th-ranked Evans to level the best-of-five-match tie at 1-all with a tense 6-3 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 triumph over Britain’s bolter selection.
Local hero Andy Murray had drawn first blood for the hosts with a merciless 6-3 6-0 6-3 mauling of Thanasi Kokkinakis in the opening singles rubber at the Emirates Arena.
The world No.3 broke Kokkinakis six times and dropped just six points in 12 service games of his own in an imperious display to pile the pressure on Tomic.
Tomic responded with a composed and ultimately courageous performance to keep alive Australia’s hopes of reaching their first Davis Cup final in 12 years.
But to do so, Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Groth will almost certainly need to win Saturday’s pivotal doubles rubber against the brothers Murray.
British captain Leon Smith on Friday named Jamie Murray and Dom Inglis to face Hewitt and Groth, but both skippers have until an hour before the match to alter their line-ups.
Dubbing him a “superstar of the sport”, Australian captain Wally Masur said he wouldn’t hesitate throwing Andy into the fray if he were Smith.
“No disrespect to Dom Inglot – he has had a great summer – but Andy is definitely class,” Masur said.
“He has played good doubles in the past and just his form today, I would think he would go in.
“It’s a good story, the Murray brothers playing doubles in Glasgow. I mean, you heard the reception he got when he went out.
“I thought it would be a bit more of a dogfight but Andy was as clinical and intense as I have ever seen him. He just didn’t deviate (against Kokkinakis).”
Murray said it wasn’t his decision, but made it clear he wanted to back up before his reverse singles match against Tomic on Sunday after spending less than two hours schooling Kokkinakis.
“Everyone in the team wants to play,” said the dual grand slam and reigning Olympic champion.
Smith admitted he faced a tough choice, but appeared to be leaning towards the sentimental option of pairing the Murrays in a move that would electrify the indoor venue.
“It’s not just about Andy,” Smith said.
“Yes, he is the best player across the two teams, but it’s about Jamie as well.
“Jamie is playing the best tennis of his career and Dom is playing great. He won at Winston-Salem and made the semi-finals of the US Open. He is desperate to play and has Davis Cup experience.
“Whichever combination goes out, we should be confident.
“But clearly if Andy goes out, when they get that team sheet, they will go ‘oh, Andy’s playing’.”
Now boasting a 23-2 win-loss record in Davis Cup singles, and undefeated in a home tie, Murray played sublimely against Kokkinakis to raise hopes of a first British final appearance since 1978.
“I’ve practised with him a fair few times and I can say that’s the best he’s ever played against me by a mile,” Kokkinakis said.
Tomic was a heavy favourite against Evans, but did lose their only previous meeting at the US Open two years ago and had to dig deep to deny the underdog with 27 aces.