This is looking like Britain’s year in the Davis Cup.
Nobody’s said that seriously in nearly 80 years, but the stars and Pluto seemed to have aligned for the British.
They reached the semifinals on Sunday for the first time since 1981, long before any of the team were born.
Andy Murray, carrying a sore hip from a nasty-looking fall in doubles on Saturday, clinched the win over 2014 runner-up France on London grass on Sunday in the first reverse singles when he came from a set and a break down to beat Gilles Simon 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-0. Murray cried in his chair afterwards.
“When you look at history, you see how long it’s been since we have been (in the semis), it gives you an idea of how difficult a thing it is to do,” Murray said.
There were more milestones in the other quarterfinals.
Australia won from 2-0 down for the first time since the 1939 final against the United States.
Belgium got to the semis for the first time since 1999, while Argentina made it for the eighth time in 10 years.
Belgium will host the Argentines on Sept. 18-20, the weekend after the U.S. Open, and Britain will welcome the Australians.
If the British fail this year, it may be another 80 years before they get another chance.
To win the Davis Cup, teams generally need a world-class player, solid backup, and luck. Britain can tick all three.
Murray won all three points for Britain, including a doubles win with his brother Jamie, when the Brits chose to break up Jamie’s partnership with Dominic Inglot, the Wimbledon doubles runners-up the previous weekend. The gamble worked.
The Murray brothers, together on Saturday for the first time in more than two years, defeated Nicolas Mahut and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in four sets, leaving Andy Murray the chance to clinch the tie on Sunday.
They’ve had luck all year. Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka decided not to play this year for Switzerland, and the depleted defending champions fell to Belgium in the first round. Novak Djokovic was too tired after winning Wimbledon, and Serbia lost to Argentina.
The draw has given the Brits three straight home ties, including Australia’s upcoming visit, and if they win, they will be hoping Argentina prevails as well, because then the final will be in Britain, too.
That hasn’t happened since before World War II, when Fred Perry, Bunny Austin, and Patrick Hughes won four successive Davis Cups from 1933-36, Britain’s last titles.
They made the final again in 1978, when John Lloyd and Chris Mottram lost to a John McEnroe-led U.S. team, but even with Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski together for a dozen years from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s, Britain never passed the first round.
Britain’s first tie with Australia in 12 years was set up in dramatic circumstances in Darwin.
Kazakhstan won both opening singles on Friday, but Sam Groth and Lleyton Hewitt combined to win the doubles in straight sets and keep Australia alive.
Australia captain Wally Masur then made two big calls by dropping his highest-ranked players, Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis for the reverse singles on Sunday after they lost their Friday singles. He was proved right.
Groth came through against Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 7-6 (6), 4-6, 7-6 (6), then Hewitt won the decider against Aleksandr Nedovyesov in straight sets. Used to playing the fourth rubber as Australia’s No. 1 player, the retiring Hewitt played a deciding fifth rubber for the first time in his 77th Davis Cup match.
“I love the backs-to-the-wall situation,” Hewitt said. “You don’t get opportunities like this very often. This is what dreams are made of.”
Argentina defeated Serbia 4-1, securing victory with a day to spare on a made-to-order indoor clay court in Buenos Aires.
Leonardo Mayer gave Filip Krajinovic his first Davis Cup defeat in the opening singles, and Federico Delbonis came from two sets down to overhaul Viktor Troicki. Troicki was tired in the doubles, as Mayer and Carlos Berlocq won it in straight sets for an unbeatable 3-0 lead. It finished 4-1.
Another team effort was on show in Ostend, where Belgium swept Canada 5-0 on outdoor clay to achieve its first semifinal in 102 years.
Steve Darcis and David Goffin won the opening singles, then Ruben Bemelmans and Kimmer Coppejans, a former Junior French Open champion on debut in his hometown, won the doubles.
“I never imagined (my debut) would be like this,” Coppejans said.
The result was not a surprise, as Canada travelled without injured top-30 players Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil, forcing them to debut Filip Peliwo and Adil Shamasdin.
“Even though we were favourites, we worked hard,” Belgium captain Johan van Herck said. “We were really professional. It’s a team effort, and that’s the most important.”
He was looking forward to Belgium’s first match with Argentina since 1948.
“They have four good players, or maybe if (Juan Martin) del Potro comes back (from injury), five good players,” Van Herck said. “It will be a close tie.
“We have the home advantage, which is huge. For both teams, it’s a good chance to reach the final. We will be ready to go.”