GLASGOW: Argentina moved a step closer to the Davis Cup final after Guido Pella beat Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund to give them a commanding 2-0 lead in their World Group semi-final tie on Friday.
The pressure had been on Edmund after Juan Martin Del Potro defeated world number two Andy Murray in five sets to get Argentina off to a winning start following an epic battle on the hard-court of the Emirates Arena earlier in the day in Glasgow.
However, despite taking the first set on a tie break the 21-year-old had no answer to Pella’s power play as the Argentine claimed victory in just over three hours, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
With a final place against either Croatia or France in November at stake, Pella’s win leaves Argentina needing just one more victory from either Saturday’s doubles or the two remaining singles on Sunday to eliminate the holders and secure a fourth final spot in the past 10 years.
World number ones Great Britain haven’t defeated Argentina since 1928 and their hopes of ending that run took a blow before Edmund took to the court following Del Potro’s defeat of home crowd favourite Murray.
Edmund stepped up in Murray’s absence to claim two singles victories in the quarter-final defeat of Serbia in July, and he raced into an early 3-0 lead in the first set thanks to his impressive forehand before Pella recovered to take it to a tie-break.
The Brit’s hopes looked dashed as Pella took a 3-0 advantage but he fought back to win 7-5.
The second set went with serve until Pella, who had claimed victory in the pair’s only other meeting at Indian Wells earlier in the season, struck at the perfect time as he capitalised on Edmund’s unforced errors to break serve in the tenth game to seal a 6-4 victory.
Edmund broke the Argentine’s serve to take a 3-2 lead in the third set but Pella immediately broke back and won the next four games in a row to seal the set.
The world number 55 continued to cause his higher-ranked rival problems in the fourth but, with the finishing line in sight, Pella raised his game to serve a love game to seal the match.
Earlier, Del Potro had helped Argentina get off to a flying start with a 6-4, 5-7, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-4 victory over Murray in an epic encounter that, at five hours and seven minutes, was the longest match of both players’ careers.
“It was an important victory for us. I feel so tired. I’ve got cramps everywhere,” a delighted Del Potro said.
“I think we both played at a very high level for five hours. The crowd enjoyed that and when you win these kind of matches it is great.
“I still remember the Olympics but this is important for me and the team and we are looking forward to reaching another final in the Davis Cup.”
It was Murray’s first home defeat in the competition and he thought there had been nothing to separate the pair in the rubber.
“It was very fine margins. That happens in tennis and sport sometimes when it could go either way and there wasn’t much difference in the match,” Murray said.
“I thought I did great today. I fought for every point and tried the best that I could and that’s all that you can do.”
Murray will have little time to recover and is expected to partner big brother Jamie in the doubles on Saturday but won’t make a decision until the morning.
“I don’t know how I will recover. I’ve never played a match that long. I’ll have to see how I pull up tomorrow when I wake up and probably make a decision then,” the Scot said on Friday evening.