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Murray and Fleming give GB Davis Cup lead over Tunisia

Murray and Fleming
Murray and Fleming eventually overcame some spirited opposition

Great Britain's Jamie Murray and Colin Fleming made hard work of their Davis Cup doubles assignment as they beat Tunisia 6-1 3-6 6-3 6-4 in Bolton.

Malek Jaziri and Slim Hamza looked to be in for a thrashing when the home pairing raced away in the first set.

But inconsistent serving gave Tunisia a way back into the Europe/Africa Zone Group II tie as they took the second.

But the Scottish duo recovered to take the next two sets and give GB an overall lead of 2-1 in the contest.

A loss for Jamie Baker and a win for James Ward in yesterday's singles rubber had the tie delicately poised at one a-piece going into Saturday's doubles rubber.

But the GB partnership, both ranked in the world's top 100 doubles players, were firm favourites.

James Ward (ranking 214)
Alex Bogdanovic (374)
Jamie Baker (406)
Jamie Murray (Doubles no.48)
Colin Fleming (Doubles no.79)

In contrast, 18-year-old Hamza has made just $616 in prize money in his career to date, and was making his Davis Cup debut.

Fleming and Murray made that difference count as they took just 27 minutes to win the first set against opponents who were slow to get into the match.

The next set was a different story, however, as Jaziri and Hamza successfully defended three break points in the third game.

Game six saw the Tunisians go a break up, Jaziri serving comfortably to win the set and level matters.

In the third set, Hamza's wayward smash attempt allowed the British pair to go a break up in the second game.

But this advantage was immediately squandered as the Tunisians broke back in the next game.

However, Hamza failed to capitalise as he was unable to hold his serve in the fourth.

Malek Jaziri (ranking 325)
Wael Kilani (1,196)
Slah Mbarek (1,307)
Slim Hamza (1,602)

It looked like a fourth consecutive break was on the way, but two saved break points by Fleming in the fifth game gave Britain some much needed breathing space.

The pair held firm to take win the set 6-3, much to the relief of the 1,800-strong Bolton crowd.

But if the home fans hoped for a quick and decisive end to the game, they were disappointed as Fleming gifted the Tunisians with a 3-0 lead after a double fault.

Fleming and Murray responded by holding the fourth, breaking the fifth and winning the sixth to level it at 3-3.

The visitors threatened to bring the game into a fifth set, but Murray dug in to save three break points. Fleming then served out the set, eventually putting the match to bed with an ace.

GB captain Leon Smith said: "It was maybe a little bit trickier than we had expected.

"The young guy actually played really well, he started making a lot of balls and his backhand was pretty good, and Jaziri showed again he's a pretty talented player.

"But I thought the boys responded well in that fourth set and really started showing why they're the established tour pair."

Fleming, for whom today was a third successive Davis Cup victory after wins over Lithuania and Turkey with former partner Ken Skupski, pinpointed their failure to break early in the second set as a key moment.

He said: "We played really well in the first set and won it pretty easily and then we had the 0-40 game at the start of the second.

"I think because they held their serve there it gave them quite a lot of belief. But it was a good fun match and it's just nice to get a win and make it 2-1."

Murray, who was making his first appearance in the competition since 2008, added: "It wasn't the best performance but even though things were getting a bit closer in the fourth set I didn't ever really think we were going to lose."

Sunday's reverse singles rubbers see Jaziri back on the court to face Ward at 1200 GMT. If Tunisia are still in the tie, Baker will then take on Sami Ghorbel.

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see also
Ward levels Davis Cup tie for GB
04 Mar 11 |  Tennis
Davis Cup return for Bogdanovic
21 Feb 11 |  Tennis
Nadal fit to return in Davis Cup
02 Mar 11 |  Tennis
GB seal Davis Cup win over Turkey
10 Jul 10 |  Tennis
Bogdanovic to miss Davis Cup tie
08 Jun 10 |  Tennis
Bogdanovic beaten as GB lose tie
21 Sep 08 |  Tennis

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