Racquet Reaction

Davis Cup: Murray d. Young

Friday, January 31, 2014 /by
AP Photo
AP Photo

A crew of eight used 75 tons of red clay and 500 hours of work to construct a temporary court in the outfield of Petco Park. Andy Murray needed just 98 minutes to transform the surface into a sink hole for Donald Young.

Moving beautifully, serving authoritatively, and defending as if no ball was beyond reach, Murray carved up Young, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, to give Great Britain a 1-0 lead over the United States in their first-round Davis Cup tie.

Murray scored his 17th straight Davis Cup singles victory in staking Britain to the start it sought as it bids to beat the Americans for the time in 79 years. Murray, who underwent back surgery last September, wore a white t-shirt beneath his blue Adidas top as protection against the 63-degree chill. After holding in a six-minute opening game, he went to work dressing down a visibly tight Young.

Murray mixed the angle, pace, and depth of his returns masterfully in unsettling Young: He broke the left-hander in his first two service games, winning 16 of 19 points in one stretch to build a 5-0 lead. Murray earned break points in seven of the American's 11 service games, converting six of 11 break points in all. Playing primarily to Young's weaker backhand wing at the outset, Murray frequently drew the mid-court ball, taking the opening set after just 24 minutes of play.

It was an arduous Davis Cup debut for Young, pressed into duty when U.S. No. 1 John Isner was forced out nursing a sprained right ankle. Young beat Murray, 7-6, 6-3, in their first meeting three years ago at Indian Wells, but since then Murray has won five straight sets in their head-to-heads.

You can see why this is such a comfortable match-up for Murray: Young's cross-court forehand feeds directly into the Scot's best shot, his two-handed backhand, and he couldn't gain traction in long rallies against his ultra-consistent opponent. While Young's soft hands and acute angles make him a threat at net, Murray is a skilled improviser on the run. When Young botched a forehand swing volley, he fell into a 4-1 second-set hole from which there was no escape.

The sun snuck out from behind a curtain of clouds that shrouded the sky for much of the match as Young earned his first break points in the sixth game of the third set. Murray answered, banging a 136 M.P.H. ace down the middle to erase the first, before treating Young like a yo-yo: He drew him forward with a drop shot, then played over his head with an exquisite half-volley backhand lob winner to save the second break chance, and eventually held for 4-2.

A forehand return winner down the line brought Murray to double match point before he drilled another return winner down the line, this with his backhand. It ended an efficient performance that could pay dual dividends: In addition to alleviating some pressure on 175th-ranked James Ward, the second singles starter, the Wimbledon winner conserved energy for his probable doubles start alongside Colin Fleming against the Bryan brothers tomorrow.

"I'll speak to the captain and all the team and see what the best way forward is," Murray told Eurosport when asked if he will play doubles tomorrow.

It was about the only time all day he didn't supply a definitive answer.

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