Birmingham (UK): Andy Murray defeated Kei Nishikori 7-5, 7-6 (8/6), 3-6, 4-6, 6-3 in an epic clash as defending champions Great Britain downed Japan to reach the Davis Cup quarter-finals on Sunday.
Britain's Andy Murray reacts after winning his singles match vs Japan's Kei Nishikori in their Davis Cup tie in Birmingham on Sunday. Pic/AFP
Murray, the World No 2, had seemed set for a comfortable afternoon against his sixth-ranked opponent by taking the first two sets against a player he had defeated five times in six previous encounters.
But Nishikori battled and was even a break to the good in the deciding set before Murray stormed back for victory in five minutes short of five hours.
Next up Djokovic
Victory gave Britain an unassailable 3-1 lead in the tie and a place in July's quarter-finals. Waiting there will be Novak Djokovic's Serbia or outsiders Kazakhstan.
"The crowd helped for sure. I was struggling a little at the end of the third and a little bit throughout the fourth," said Murray, who had been looking at the prospect of losing from two sets up for the first time in 11 years.
There were long rallies, he was pushing me quite far off the baseline. I was trying to keep the points short but in the fifth I had to grit my teeth, fight hard and I managed to get the win.
'Panic set in'
I was a little bit calmer in the fifth set. I was panicking a little bit at the end of the third when I was struggling physically, I didn't quite know what to do. In the fifth I went back to what I was doing in the first set. Positive energy, fight for every single point and that was enough today."
Murray hit 10 aces and 40 winners but suffered 97 unforced errors in the gruelling encounter. Fatigue looked to be taking over Murray's body and omens were not good when he dropped serve at the start of the fifth but he hit back with three games in a row.
Nishikori broke back before Murray withstood a barrage of pressure to hold and then created two match points at 5-2, both of which the Japanese star saved. But Nishikori's resistance finally ended.