Just one player remains for this weekend’s Davis Cup World Group play-off clash between Croatia and Great Britain from the two teams that met at the same stage of the competition back in 2007. That man is a certain Andy Murray: then, a 20-year-old world No. 18 on his way back from injury, today, a 26-year-old two-time Grand Slam winner and world No. 3.
It will again be Murray who leads the British team, as he did six years ago when an injury-hit Croatian side travelled to Wimbledon to face John Lloyd’s team which also contained Tim Henman, who was set to retire from professional tennis following the conclusion of the tie.
Croatia had been Davis Cup champions in 2005 when the quartet of Ivan Ljubicic, Mario Ancic, Ivo Karlovic and Goran Ivanisevic lifted the trophy after defeating Slovak Republic 3-2 in the final in Bratislava.
However less than two years later, Croatia found themselves fighting for a place in Davis Cup’s top tier against Britain, who were looking for a return to the highest level for the first time since 2003.
Ahead of the tie the Eastern European nation was besieged by injury. They lost two of their best players when Ancic succumbed to illness and injury and Karlovic failed to resolve a dispute with the federation.
Until Friday they still had their No.1 Ljubicic, who was expecting to play in his last Davis Cup tie before retiring from the competition. Sadly, however, he was unable to play due to illness, which meant Croatia had to rely upon its fourth and fifth ranked singles players – who had never before played a live Davis Cup rubber.
World No. 108 Marin Cilic, 18, who had been named as Croatia’s No. 2 player, soon found himself leading the team and took to Wimbledon’s No. 1 Court first on Friday to face Andy Murray. The Scot had recently returned from a wrist injury which had kept him off the Tour for two months and his lack of match practice was evident as he was extended to five sets by a player ranked 90 places lower than him. Murray eventually prevailed 36 64 62 46 63.
Tim Henman hadn’t been in the best of form either in 2007, but his prowess on the grass courts of the All England Club was too good for Roko Karanusic - Croatia’s fifth best player who was called up for singles duty to replace Ljubicic. The Brit duly increased the hosts lead at the end of day one to 2-0 following a straight sets victory over the world No. 164.
Henman then paired up with Jamie Murray to contest Saturday’s doubles rubber against Cilic and Lovro Zovko, the world No. 591. The British pair dropped the first set but battled back to win the match – and give Great Britain an unassailable 3-0 lead. Fittingly it was Henman’s crosscourt forehand winner that secured the winning point – and ended his career.
“I've had a few good scripts over the year but this is right up there - hitting the winner to seal the Davis Cup victory is brilliant," said Henman.
Andy Murray defeated Karanusic in straight sets in the first dead singles rubber on the Sunday before Cilic earnt a consolation point for the visitors with a 64 64 victory over Jamie Baker to leave the final score at 4-1.