Blow for Murray’s Davis Cup comebackComment on this story
Naples, Italy - Britain's Davis Cup quarter-final with Italy was in the balance on Friday when poor light halted play during the second rubber between Britain's Andy Murray and Italian Andreas Seppi.
Hosts Italy earlier took a 1-0 lead in the World Group tie when national number one Fabio Fognini beat James Ward, ranked 161 in the world, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Murray, who suffered a stomach bug on Thursday, battled to win the first set on the red clay of Tennis Club Napoli but the Briton was pushed all the way in a closely-fought second set.
He had to save four set points on his way to eventually levelling at 5-5, after which officials halted play due to poor light.
However the second set took it out of Murray, who was growing increasingly frustrated as a series of unforced errors Ä mostly backhand returns into the net Ä kept Seppi in the game.
Seppi broke Murray to lead 4-2 when the Scot netted a backhand return, only for Murray to break back to 4-3 and then hold serve to pull level.
Murray then missed three chances to break Seppi again during a lengthy ninth game, allowing the Italian to take a 5-4 lead, after which Murray drew his hand across his neck in a gesture to his coach that appeared to indicate the extent of his struggles.
But with the 10th game potentially crucial to the tie, Murray dug deep.
The Scot built a 40-30 lead but allowed Seppi back in when he sliced yet another backhand into the net, and had to battle to save four set points before leaving the court with the job to finish on Saturday, when Simone Bolelli and Paolo Lorenzi are scheduled to meet British pair Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins in the doubles.
The eventual winners of the tie will take on either Switzerland or Kazakhstan in September's semi-finals.
Both Italy and Britain are hoping to end their long absence from the final four of the World Group.
Italy last advanced to the semi-finals in 1998 when they went on to finish runners-up to Sweden, while the last final-four appearance for Britain - nine-time winners but who last triumphed in 1936 - came in 1981.
Italian hopes, however, were high after Fognini overcame a nervy start following a two-hour rain delay to swipe Ward aside and give the hosts the psychological edge.
“It wasn't a pretty game out there but I gave it everything I had against an opponent who had nothing to lose,” said Fognini, who was carrying a rib injury and had to take a medical timeout during the match to have it re-taped.
Fognini hinted he could be in line to replace Bolelli or Lorenzi if he is given the all-clear.
“Now we'll see how it responds to physiotherapy and whether I can enter the doubles tomorrow.
“But the important thing today was to get that first point and thanks to the Naples public, we've achieved that.”