“Queen’s is a very special place for me and I was so happy to be invited to see the Davis Cup there,” she said.
“My friends, Stephen Raphael and Tim Cockroft, arranged for tickets, which was really great of them since the event was totally sold out.
“It was completely different to what we are used to seeing at Queen’s during the tournament ahead of Wimbledon. Terrific atmosphere, with lots of fans from Britain and France, making a fantastic noise between points.“I’ve watched many Davis Cup ties before, particularly involving Brazil, of course, and we do things very differently, with samba dancing and bands and things! This was very controlled but still great fun!
“I was amazed to see how everyone got into the event, even Tim [Cockroft], the Chairman of Queen’s Club, wearing a jacket made out of British flags! Not at all expected!!”
It was clear that Queen’s Club was delighted to host the three fantastic days of tennis and everyone got into the true spirit of the event.
The opening ceremony saw the crowd treated to heart raising renditions of both French and British national anthems and first up on court was GB’s James Ward against France’s Gilles Simon.
“That was a rather routine match for Simon and it looked like Ward couldn’t get into it at all,” observed Maria.
“However much the crowd tried to lift him [Ward], it was Simon who dominated and won rather easily in straight sets.”
Simon put away Ward, 6-4 6-4 6-1, leaving Andy Murray, the British No 1, to level the tie.
He was playing just seven days after his Wimbledon semi-final loss to Roger Federer, and the fear was that he could have suffered a let-down, but he overcame the big-serving Frenchman 7-5 7-6(10) 6-2 to level the tie on day one.
“Murray had to save three set points in the second set tie-break but then he took control of the third,” continued Maria.
“I understand he has never lost a grass court singles match in Davis Cup, which is quite something. He also tends to win a lot at Queen’s!”
Tsonga, a French Open semi-finalist, consistently served over 130mph and had Murray slipping around the court. He switched his shoes and began to find his footing and his range, gradually neutralising the Frenchman’s weapons.
“The French fans were yelling ‘Allez les bleus’ as the British fans tried to drown them out with their own chants. It was like a football match! Flags and banners and lots of noise!”
After the very close first set, which went 7-5 to Murray, it looked like a mammoth match was on the cards between the two and it took a nail biting tie break to determine the second, 12-10, before Murray took total control with the crowd behind him, seeing off Tsonga in a rapid third set 6-2.
“In Davis Cup it is always good to have a live tie into the third day, for the spectators and TV, and and the fact they were level on day one guaranteed a good show,” said Maria.
“The doubles was an amazing match with the Murray brothers [Andy and Jamie] teaming up to beat Tsonga and [Nicolas] Mahut,” said Maria.
“The Brits came back after losing the first set to produce a great win that put them ahead. It was very exciting.”
In fact, it was one of the biggest wins for Team GB in recent times as the Murray brothers fought back to a 4-6 6-3 7-6(5) 6-1 win in two hours and 49 minutes ahead of Sunday’s singles.
“Murray was really tested by Simon and the way Ward had played on Friday, it was essential for him to win,” continued Maria.
“Simon played brilliantly, breaking Andy early in the first set and again in the second, forcing Murray to dig deep. He was lucky to level the second set before winning the tie break 7-6(5) but from then on he was in control as Simon struggled with niggley injuries after slipping on the court.”
Murray won his country’s place in the World Group semi-final, 4-6 7-6(5) 6-3 6-0 in three hours and 26 minutes, putting Great Britain there for the first time in 34 years.“It was a great result. France had a strong team,” concluded Maria. “But Murray is a real fighter and I’ve never seen him so animated on the court as he is for Davis Cup.
“They will meet Australia, who came through because of another fighter, Lleyton Hewitt. Australia came from 0-2 down to beat Kazakhstan 3-2 in Darwin.”
Kazakhstan took a 2-0 lead after Mikhail Kukushkin defeated Thanasi Kokkinakis and Aleksandr Nedovyesov overcame Nick Kyrgios.
With their backs to the wall, the Aussies turned to their greatest fighter Lleyton Hewitt and the big-serving Sam Groth to keep their hopes alive and they delivered in straight sets, 6-4 7-6(4) 6-2 over Nedovyesov and Andrey Golubev.
“We heard that neither Kyrgios or Kokkinakis played well in the singles and after Australia managed to win the doubles, they were replaced by [Sam] Groth in the reverse singles, who played a brilliant match, and then it was down to Hewitt to win, which he did! Another great result!”
Great Britain will play Australia in a home tie to be arranged for 18-20 September. The home nation won their ninth and most recent Davis Cup back in 1936 under the inspirational leadership of Fred Perry, and last made the final in 1978, losing to the USA.
“I won’t be here for that one but I’ll be keeping an eye on it from Brazil where we are playing a World Group Play-Off tie against Croatia.”
Maria will be covering that one for TV Globo/SporTV in Brazil.