Battle Of The Brits Is Level Going Into Super Sunday

WASHINGTON, August 2, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

As The Battle Of The Brits entered its final two days with plenty of points on the table for the grabbing – and with the Union Jacks chipping away at the once invincible lead built by the British Bulldogs – the excitement throughout the grounds of the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, England, suddenly became very lively on Saturday.

Credit British men’s No. 1 Dan Evans for taking on the extra duty of being the Union Jacks’ biggest cheerleader, a role he cherished. Evans was unabashedly vocal on the sidelines and by the end of day had given out plenty of elbow bumps in lieu of handshakes and high-fives.

As soon as the 28th-ranked Evans won his mid-afternoon match by early retirement over previously unbeaten No. 77 Cameron Norrie, ahead 4-0 in the opening set, he raced next door from Centre Court to Court No. 1 so he could cheer for his teammate, Jodie Burrage. She came from behind and pulled out a 10-7 third-set tie-break win against British prospect Emma Raducanu after splitting the first two sets by identical 6-2 scores. Later on, Evans could be seen and heard front and center on his team’s backbench throughout the final two matches of the day, which the Union Jacks prevailed in both.

First, there was a three-set men’s doubles win by Andy Murray and Lloyd Glasspool over Joe Salisbury and Kyle Edmund, 4-6, 6-3, 10-4. It was followed by an exciting mixed doubles thriller that Jamie Murray and Heather Watson pulled off, 6-3, 3-6, 17-15, over Liam Broady and Harriet Dart in one hour and 32 minutes to level the score at 45-45 going into Sunday’s final day. First team to 60 points wins the team championship.

“The match tie-break was brutal, it was pretty much neck and neck the whole way,” said Jamie Murray of his and Watson’s triumph, which was worth three points. The 32-point tie-break set, alone, lasted 26 minutes and Murray and Watson prevailed on their fifth match point after fending off three match points delivered by Broady and Dart. “Heather served great and came up with some clutch returns. I was just trying to stay as calm as I could. 

“It is the first time we’ve been level since we started on Monday morning, so we’re happy to go into Sunday with a chance to win.”

The day started well for the Union Jacks as Katie Boulter celebrated her 24th birthday with a stress-free 6-1, 6-1 win over Beth Grey and German-born Brit Jan Choinski prevailed over Alastair Gray, 6-4, 4-6, 10-4, for his third win of the week. However, the British Bulldogs rebounded as British men’s No. 2 Edmund scored a 6-2, 6-1 win over Anton Matusevich, then Dart and Grey earned an 6-2, 6-2 doubles win over Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls.

Going into the final two Day 6 matches, both involving the Murray brothers, two points were at stake in the men’s doubles match and three points in the mixed doubles. As it turned out, the Union Jacks rallied to win both as both team benches were filled with social distant teammates, who provided plenty of good-natured cheer and moral support coupled with some noisy air horns.

“We’re ready for a good Sunday” said Glasspool, who has teamed with both of the Murray brothers during the week – and won with both of them by his side in a confident manner.

There are 10 matches scheduled (beginning at 10 a.m. BST) on what has been dubbed “Super Sunday,” where the point value of each victory will be worth more. With 29 points at stake, the first side to garner 15 points will be crowned champion. It could come down to the very last match of the tournament, a mixed doubles clash pitting Watson and Jamie Murray against Dart and Salisbury worth five points to the winner.

“We’ve got good momentum, we’ve got incredible team spirit, it’s been absolutely brilliant,” said Union Jacks co-coach Judy Murray during an on-court interview that followed Watson and Jamie Murray’s victory. “The cheerleading and the banter and the sledging has been phenomenal on both sides and I think that the lower-ranked players in the teams are getting a massive amount out of the camaraderie and learning from the experience of the older players around them, or the higher-ranked players around them and that can only be a good thing for British tennis.”

British Bulldogs co-coach Leon Smith, who is Great Britain’s Davis Cup captain, agreed with Judy Murray’s assessment. He said: “Look this is what it’s all about. That last match was so much fun for everybody. Day 6 in, everybody’s played so much tennis and just something like that gets the energy going. It’s exactly what Jamie’s vision would have been for something like this, having different people involved in it, everyone at the side of the court. As much as it stings like hell to lose that last one, it’s brilliant.”

World TeamTennis final set

World TeamTennis regular-season champion Philadelphia Freedoms were upset by the fourth-seed New York Empire 22-18 and the third-seed Chicago Smash stopped the Orlando Storm’s seven-match winning streak and beat the second seed 24-13 during Saturday’s WTT semifinals at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The Empire and Smash meet Sunday at Noon ET for the King Trophy, named in honor of WTT co-founder Billie Jean King.

UTS 2 – Rematch, anyone?

The semifinals are set for Sunday’s encore of the Ultimate Tennis Showdown at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy near Nice, France: It’s Alexander Zverev versus Corentin Moutet and Felix Auger-Aliassime against Richard Gasquet.

On Saturday, by winning a friendly in sudden death overtime against Auger-Aliassime, Zverev got first pick of his semifinal opponent. Earlier in the day, Moutet won Group A when Benoit Paire retired early from their match. Later, Gasquet defeated Feliciano Lopez in a battle of Group B unbeaten players.

Zverev and Auger-Aliassime put on an entertaining performance during their match. Afterward, the German joked, “The crowd is amazing. The atmosphere is the best we have played in the last six months.”

In the first women’s Ultimate Tennis Showdown, France’s Alizé Cornet defeated 13-year-old Czech junior star Brenda Fruhvirtova and Anastasia Pavlychenkova of Russia prevailed over Ons Jabeur of Tunisia. Cornet and Pavlyuchenkova will meet in the women’s final on Sunday.

Palermo Open reports player testing positive for Covid-19

Federer makes a surprise visit to Liguria, Italy

Roger Federer paid a surprise visit to two Italian girls in Liguria, Italy, who earlier this year made world headlines with their viral video dubbed “The Rooftop Match.” There were many happy moments for everyone – the girls and Roger – over tennis and Barilla pasta, too.

Passing shots

• The first winner of a real tennis match in five months is … Nadia Podoroska of Argentina. On Saturday, during the first round of qualifying at the Palermo Ladies Open in Palermo, Italy, Podoroska, ranked 172nd, defeated No. 201 Rena-Luca Jani of Hungary, 6-3, 6-1 in one hour and 16 minutes.

• Hall of Famer Billie Jean King, who co-founded World TeamTennis 45 years ago and remains a team owner of the Philadelphia Freedoms, said during a TV interview Saturday from the WTT playoffs that “young people want to play team sports … they want to be with their friends.”

What they’re sharing on social media

Simona Halep / Feel the burn …

Petra Kvitova / It’s Auntie Petra time …

Sabine Lisicki / Absolutely love this shot …