LONDON (AFP) - Andy and Jamie Murray put Great Britain within touching distance of an historic Davis Cup semi-final berth as the brothers beat France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Nicolas Mahut to move 2-1 ahead in the last eight clash on Saturday.
World No. 3 Andy and his older brother Jamie secured a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5), 6-1 victory in the doubles rubber that left Britain needing one win from Sunday’s two remaining singles matches to reach the semi-finals for the first time in 34 years.
Andy can secure a last-four showdown against Australia or Kazakhstan in September if he defeats scheduled opponent Gilles Simon in the first of those singles ties at Queen’s Club in west London on Sunday.
If he loses, British world No. 89 James Ward is due to face world No. 12 Tsonga in what would be the decisive second singles.
Nine-time winners France finished as runners-up to Switzerland last year, but now they are teetering on the brink of a first defeat against old rivals Britain since 1978.
With the tie on a knife-edge after Friday’s singles, both teams made late changes to their doubles line-ups.
Despite admitting his body is feeling the strain of a gruelling spell that saw him reach the Wimbledon and French Open semi-finals, Andy agreed to be inserted alongside Jamie instead of Dominic Inglot.
French captain Arnaud Clement also made a switch, with Tsonga selected ahead of Richard Gasquet, who is still less than 100 per cent after his run to the last four at Wimbledon.
It was an especially bold move by British captain Leon Smith as Andy Murray had played only six doubles matches this year, the most recent during Queen’s last month alongside Inglot, while his last Davis Cup doubles appearance, with Colin Fleming, ended in a defeat against Italy last year.
The Murray brothers hadn’t played alongside one another since the Indian Wells tournament in March 2013 and their previous Davis Cup outing was in July 2011 against Luxembourg.
They had also lost seven of their last 12 doubles matches together.
The French pair, playing together for only the fifth time, were also an unknown quantity.
They made the perfect start with a break of Andy Murray’s serve in the opening game before comfortably closing out the first set.
Fresh from reaching the Wimbledon doubles final, it was Jamie who looked the more confident of the siblings early on.
But it was Andy who came to Britain’s rescue when he successfully challenged a ball called in to secure a break in the fourth game of a second set that the hosts won to level the match.
There was a moment of drama in the third set at 5-5 when Andy slipped and rolled over clutching his groin after reaching a Tsonga serve.
The two-time Grand Slam champion lay flat on his back for several minutes of treatment before finally clambering to his feet.
Moving well enough, Murray punched away a volley to earn a set point in the tie-break and then unloaded a blistering return to seal a two sets to one lead.
The French looked shell-shocked by that setback and their frustration boiled over when Clement complained that Tsonga had been distracted by a call of ‘out’ from the crowd in the second game of the fourth set.
Taking advantage of their opponents’ sudden loss of focus, the brothers broke twice in the first four games and were soon hugging in celebration of another memorable moment for the Murray clan.