Bernard Tomic has hung tough to put Australia back on level terms with Great Britain in their Davis Cup semi-final in Glasgow.
Tomic resisted a spirited fightback from Dan Evans to deny Britain’s bolter selection 6-3 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 in a three-hour thriller after local hero Andy Murray drew first blood for the hosts with a merciless straight-sets mauling of Thanasi Kokkinakis.
The fierce patriotic fervour inside the Emirates Arena swept Murray to a 6-3 6-0 6-3 victory in one hour and 47 minutes.
The lop-sided win piled the pressure on Tomic, but the world No.23 responded with a composed and ultimately courageous performance to keep Australia in the best-of-five-rubber tie.
Saturday’s doubles looms as potentially decisive.
British captain Leon Smith has named Jamie Murray and Dom Inglis to face Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Groth, but both skippers have until an hour before the match to alter their line-ups.
Britain will almost certainly now team up the Murray brothers after Andy put his hand up following his emphatic victory.
Boasting a 23-2 win-loss record in Davis Cup singles, and undefeated in a home tie, Murray played sublimely to raise hopes of Great Britain reaching their first final in 37 years.
The world No.3 broke Kokkinakis six times and dropped just six points on his own service throughout the entire match – and three of those points were Murray double-faults.
So dominant was he that the Scot wasn’t even pushed to deuce in any of his 12 service games, his 93 per cent of first-serve points won the best he’s ever produced in a best-of-five-set-match.
“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.
“I didn’t help my team very much today but he didn’t make it easy. The crowd was behind him as I expected. He played really well.
“He was hitting it hard and flat to me, and deep, and I was dropping it short and he was attacking me from there.
“His backhand was lights out today and that’s what really hurt me.”
Tomic was a heavy favourite against Evans, but did lose their only previous meeting at the US Open two years ago.
Riding the momentum of Murray’s win, and the home-crowd support, the underdog was out to seize on any nerves from the Australian No.1.
Tomic arrived with his game face on, though, and steamed through the opening set in 27 minutes before breaking the Englishman in the first game of the second set.
Tomic invited Evans – and the raucous crowd – back into the contest when he dragged two forehands wide to hand the break back in the sixth game as Evans pushed the set to a tiebreaker.
Tomic kept his nerve to roll through the breaker to seemingly regain control.
He seemed poised to be back in the locker room inside two hours after racing to a 3-0 lead and then serving for the match at 5-3.
But Evans produced some inspired tennis to somehow claw his way back into the match and snatch the third set as Tomic began to fatigue.
Tomic, though, hasn’t built an impressive 15-2 win-loss record in the competition for nothing and stayed cool to finally shut Evans out after two hours and 57 minutes, his 27 aces the most telling stat of the match.