Eastbourne cliffhanger

A NEW-look Great Britain team, missing both its traditional standard bearers in Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski, was brought to its knees by lowly Israel on England’s south coast. What, on paper, looked to be a relatively easy exercise, turned into a marathon with an unhappy ending.

Alex Bogdanovic’s opening rubber straight sets defeat to Israeli number one, Noam Okun, ranked 270 in the world, did not help take the pressure off Andy Murray’s young shoulders. The 19-year-old Scot found himself two sets to love down to Andy Ram, before hauling himself and his team back into contention. He took the next three sets 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 against his opponent ranked 627 places below him in the world to square the tie. However, the momentum again swung Israel’s way, when a mammoth five-set doubles encounter was lost by the home team in Saturday’s dying light. The effort proved too much for Murray, who was unable to continue in Sunday’s reverse singles due to a neck and shoulder injury, his place being taken by Jamie Delgado. The stand-in had to beat Okun to prevent overall defeat and a less than desirable relegation play-off against the Ukraine this autumn – but it was not to be.  Despite fighting back from a two-set deficit, the Briton’s reserves were exhausted by the time the two players entered the fifth and decisive shoot-out, Okun leading his country to victory. The future of British team tennis looks bleak indeed.