Andy Murray defeated Kei Nishikori in a five-hour, five-set epic on Sunday as Great Britain beat Japan 3-1 in the opening round of the 2016 Davis Cup, while Australia's Nick Kyrgios became the centre of controversy after sitting out Australia's 3-1 defeat to the United States with his team-mate Bernard Tomic accusing him of not actually being unable to play through illness.
Italy saw out a 5-0 whitewash against Switzerland, while Argentina, France, Belgium, Serbia and the Czech Republic all secured their places in the quarter-finals.
Here is a reminder of the fixtures from Round 1 and a look back at some of the best moments from another absorbing Sunday in this unique competition.
|Davis Cup Round 1: Latest Scores|
Murray's clash with Nishikori was noteworthy before the players even stepped on court, as a showdown between players of their quality at such an early stage of the competition is something of a rarity, per ATP WorldTour's Josh Meiseles:
A vicious backhand allowed the Scot to go a break up in the first, but three successive games, including a break-back from Nishikori, levelled the scores at 4-4. Another clever backhand sealed a second break and the set for Murray and GB in the final game.
A tight second followed with neither able to trouble the other's serve, but Murray edged out his opponent in the tiebreaker, via the Davis Cup's official Twitter feed:
Nishikori fought back in third set against an increasingly fatigued and frustrated Murray and carried that momentum into the fourth as he raced to two breaks ahead, thanks to some clever and controlled play and some wild shots from Murray.
As tennis writer Jake Davies noted, both have outstanding records on hard court in this competition:
The pair exchanged breaks in an electric start to the fifth set, and Nishikori handed Murray another with a loose backhand. Murray broke once more in dramatic fashion as he lashed home a forehand winner at deuce and held to go 5-2 up.
His opponent valiantly held serve but could only prolong the inevitable, as Murray saw out the final game comfortably. Former British No. 1 Greg Rusedski hailed his efforts:
Davis Cup shared the result:
Per the Telegraph's Rob Bagchi, Murray said: "I had to grit my teeth in the fifth set. The crowd helped a lot. I was a little bit calmer in the fifth. I had been down on myself, hurting, but I had more positive energy more pumped up in the fifth. I'd like to try and do the same as we did last year. Next match will be extremely tough."
The United States completed a fine triumph on Sunday, with John Isner getting the better of Tomic, 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (4), at the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club.
Tomic, despite being well-backed by a raucous home crowd, was unable to get much of a grip of Isner’s thunderous serving early on. Indeed, in the opening two sets the Aussie couldn’t conjure a break point, allowing the American to race into a comfortable position.
There were some hopes of a fightback from Tomic, as he finally got stuck into Isner’s serve at the end of the third, winning a monster game to take the set.
Then, with the fourth going to a tiebreak, there was a sense a five-set thriller could be on the cards. But the world No. 11 maintained his composure to take it 7-4 and put his nation into the last eight of the tournament.
Jack Sock posted the following on Twitter, paying tribute to his team-mates after some fine showings this week:
However, Tomic didn’t have equally positive words for one of his compatriots. Kyrgios pulled out of the competition this week, and Tomic questioned the validity of his reasons during the match.
“I'm leaning towards just waiting to see whether he's going to be playing in Indian Wells, that's going to tell me a lot,” the world No. 20 added afterwards. ”I’ve spoken to him already. If he plays Indian Wells, then he's definitely lost a little bit of my respect.”
Germany sparked hopes of a comeback in their match with the Czech Republic as Tomas Berdych was forced to retire with Philipp Kohlschreiber leading their match, 6-3, 7-5.
Alexander Zverev and Lukas Rosol were left to battle it out in the decisive fifth rubber, and veteran Rosol handily dismissed his young opponent, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1. Berdych congratulated his team-mate:
Michal Przysiezny was unable to lead what would have been a remarkable turnaround for Poland against Argentina as he slipped to a four-set defeat to Leonardo Mayer.
The Pole made it a difficult match for Mayer early on as he took the opener on a tiebreaker. The Argentinian handed him a minibreak with an unforced error—one of just two points he lost on his serve in the entire set, per Lee Goodall of DavisCup.com.
With momentum on his side, Mayer edged an equally close second set before easing his way to victory:
Hubert Hurkacz beat Renzo Olivo in the dead rubber.
Novak Djokovic was run surprisingly close by Mikhail Kukushkin in Belgrade but from 2-1 down came back to keep Serbia's hopes alive with a five-set victory in his rubber.
Viktor Troicki sealed the comeback with a comfortable three-set win over Aleksandr Nedovyesov, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.
David Goffin proved his value to Belgium once again as he won the second of his two singles rubbers having already beaten Borna Coric on Friday. This time he faced Marin Cilic and triumphed in four sets as his opponent succumbed to the pressure at match point, per Live Tennis:
After taking a narrow first set on a tiebreaker, Coric cruised to a straight-sets victory over Kimmer Coppejans in the decider, 7-6 (5), 6-2, 6-2.
Croatia will face the U.S. in the quarter-finals. With the likes of Cilic and Coric at their disposal, they have the players to take them far in the competition, as they demonstrated in beating 2015's runners-up, but they'll have a tough time against the Americans on home soil.