Maybe Britain should host all of its home Davis Cup ties on Scottish soil if this is the reaction from the crowd and the players to the event. Glasgow's Emirates Arena kept the atmosphere bubbling along vibrantly into well into the evening, as they cheered their underdog James Ward on to a historic victory over America's giant John Isner in almost five hours of exhilarating #Tennis. Not so much David against Goliath, more 28-year-old son of a London cab driver taking on the world number twenty. Somehow the man ranked outside the top 100 came back from two sets down to take ultimate success 6-7 (4/7) 5-7 6-3 7-6 (7/3) 15-13.
After Andy Murray had disposed of Donald Young in the first rubber, wobbling slightly to lose the fourth set, but otherwise pretty much 'in the groove', there was a concern that the second match may prove something of an anti-climax. Ward had no real right to compete against the far higher ranked Isner it seemed, yet this is the Davis Cup and surprises can happen when the national fervour takes hold.
Throughout the first two sets there did not seem much cause for hope, as Isner used his trusted big serve to good effect to establish a two set lead in the manner you might have expected from a man standing 6' 10" in height. Ward was not being outplayed, in so much as such a potent service game makes it difficult to establish a rhythm on the returns, if you can get a racket on them in the first place that is. The first went to a tie-break, when a crunching forehand from Isner and a loose netted return from Ward gave the big man the initial advantage. The second was slightly easier for Isner as he broke in the 11th game as Ward sprayed a shot into the tramlines.
Then in the third set something quite novel happened, as Ward finally managed to get an unexpected break and 'nicked' a set. He needed to find two inspirational forehand passing shots, but the sixth game provided his breakthrough. Perhaps it was just a slip by the American, in much the same manner that Murray had dipped in his match against Young. Yet it seemed that maybe the game was beginning to turn the Brit's way a notch.
He still found it tough to get the Isner serve back but at least he was maintaining his own service game advantage and staying in the game, waiting for another opportunity. The fourth became a stalemate as each man held off the other to take it to a tense tie-break. This was maybe an opportunity for Ward, with the unpredictability of the alternating service points interrupting the American's rhythm. So it proved to be, as Ward raced into a 5-1 lead thanks to another wonderful passing shot and a netted drop shot by Isner, and then held his nerve to clinch the set and move the match into 'over-time'.
The fifth set became a match in itself at approaching two hours, stretching the game out far longer than expected. Both players had been there before, with Isner famously drawing on memories of five hour plus epics at Wimbledon and the French Open in the past. Ward looked to be slightly in the ascendency, as his opponent looked to be struggling with tiredness and maybe a slight injury. Still he refused to buckle as Ward saw break points come and go. On and on it went with no tie-break in the deciding set, until we reached 13-13 and maybe thoughts of a hot chocolate or a Horlicks started to occupy the thoughts of the still eagerly rapt fans in the arena. Ward held his serve to move 14-13 ahead, with the advantage of serving first perhaps becoming more crucial as the game wore on. This time, Isner buckled and after netting a volley on break point, the game was Ward's and the arena was jubilant.
The tie continues today with GB looking well set at 2-0 up, although the doubles would seem to favour the highly-experienced American pairing of the Bryan brothers. Andy Murray may well be rested now, saving him for Sunday's singles, although he may well secretly hope that it doesn't go that far and his younger brother, Jamie can complete the job himself in partnership with Dom Inglot. Inglot may be a bit of a 'wildcard' for the Brits, having already beaten the Bryans twice this year with his Romanian partner Florin Mergea. #Celebrities