Britain reach Davis Cup last eight after 'bonkers' win

9 months ago 106
Great Britain's Dan Evans hits a return in the Davis Cup tie against FranceDan Evans has won both his Davis Cup singles matches this week

Great Britain must win a deciding doubles to reach the Davis Cup Finals knockout stage after Cameron Norrie was unable to secure victory over France.

With a spot in the Final Eight at stake, Norrie lost 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 7-5 to Ugo Humbert after handing over match point with a double fault.

Earlier in the best-of-three tie, Dan Evans fought back from a set and break down to beat Arthur Fils 3-6 6-3 6-4.

Evans and Neal Skupski will put Britain through if they win the doubles.

The British pair, who have established themselves as Leon Smith's first-choice team, face experienced French duo Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin later on Sunday.

Four nations - Britain, Australia, France and Switzerland - are playing in the group-stage event at Manchester's AO Arena.

They all play each other once in a round-robin format, with the top two countries going through to the knockout stage of the men's team competition - known as the 'Final Eight' - in Malaga in November.

With Australia already through and Switzerland eliminated, Britain know they can only qualify with a victory over the French.

Britain, who last won the Davis Cup in 2015, are aiming for a return to the knockout stage after missing out last year.

'It's never simple' - Evans uses crowd energy to fight back

With a strong squad at his disposal, Great Britain captain Leon Smith had a tough selection call to make for the win-or-bust tie against a talented French squad.

Ultimately, he picked his highest-ranked players in Evans and Norrie, with former world number one Andy Murray and promising youngster Jack Draper missing out.

The move also ensured Evans - who would have played second if the lower-ranked Murray or Draper had been picked - could have a break before what will now be the decisive doubles.

But France captain Sebastien Grosjean sprung a surprise by handing a Davis Cup debut to 19-year-old Fils - who is the highest-ranked teenager on the ATP Tour at 44th in the world.

The match-up did not initially look comfortable for world number 27 Evans.

Being pinned deep behind the baseline, Evans struggled for rhythm on serve and was unable to get on top in the rallies as Fils dominated with his athleticism and power.

Things looked ominous for Evans when he trailed by a set and a break.

But the energy returned when he ended a run of losing five games in a row and, backed by a British Davis Cup record crowd of 13,000, that sparked a magnificent turnaround.

Evans strung together a winning sequence of seven games to take the second set and break early in the third, going on to convert his second match point when Fils hit a forehand into the net.

"That's something with the Davis Cup, it is never ever simple," Evans said.

"He played very good at the start, [he has] a very unorthodox forehand - a good one but different. It took me a while to get into it and I was a bit flat.

"Leon said let's throw the gameplan out of the window, bring anything and everything to the court, including the crowd.

"I fought my way through the second set and played some very good stuff in the third when I got my game back."

Norrie unable to get Britain over the line

Norrie remains Britain's highest-ranked player but came into the Davis Cup tie having won two of his previous seven matches - far from the consistent form that took him into the top 10 last year.

Despite the disappointing run, Smith has kept faith with the world number 17 in Manchester this week.

A lack of victories showed when Norrie buckled in the business ends of each set against Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka on Friday, with a similar problem proving costly against 36th-ranked Humbert.

That lack of belief in the key moments was illustrated when a tight first set, where Norrie played at a decent level, quickly swung away from the Briton in the tie-break.

Facing another deficit, Norrie demonstrated his strength of character to reset and break early in the second set. But winning it was not straightforward either, Norrie needing a fourth set point to eventually level.

The deciding set was tense. Norrie had been relatively comfortable on serve since saving a break point at 1-1, but two overeager forehands teed up a match point which he conceded in the worst possible way.

"I guess it could have gone either way but he played better in the bigger moments and that's why he won," said Norrie.

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