Great Britain reached the Davis Cup last 16 in remarkable fashion as Dan Evans and Neal Skupski saved four match points before winning a nerve-wracking decider against France.
In front of a partisan British crowd in Manchester, Evans and Skupski beat Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (8-6).
Evans won by a set and a singles break, but Cameron Norrie lost.
Evans and Skupski, encouraged by the home fans, recovered to seal the victory.
“It was crazy. I don’t know what we all went through for nine hours,” said British captain Leon Smith.
Great Britain will now move on to the knockout stage of the men’s team competition – known as the Final Eight – in the Spanish city of Malaga in November.
Four nations – Great Britain, Australia, France and Switzerland – took part in the round-robin tournament at the AO Arena in Manchester, with the top two countries qualifying.
Great Britain, who last won the Davis Cup in 2015, finished as Group B winners and will face either Serbia or Italy in the draw on Tuesday.
Australia placed second, while defending champions Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland and the Netherlands completed the list.
But notable absences will be hosts Spain, who failed to advance from Group C, and 32-time champions USA, who were upset by Finland in their final Group D match .
“Don’t panic” for Evans and Skupski in a nerve-wracking final
With Australia already qualified and Switzerland eliminated, Great Britain knew a best-of-three victory over France would allow them to progress.
What few among the 13,000 spectators – a record for a Davis Cup tie in the UK – would have predicted was the spectacular way in which their goal was ultimately achieved.
Evans, 33, set the stage for victory by fighting back to beat French teenager Arthur Fils 3-6 6-3 6-4.
British number one Norrie, 28, failed to get his team over the line as he lost 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 7-5 to Ugo Humbert, launching the doubles match where the winner takes all.
Evans and Skupski, who have become Smith’s first-choice doubles pair, recovered from a strong start from their experienced rivals before gaining confidence as the boisterous home fans lifted their spirits.
Although they failed to reduce the serve of the two Frenchmen in the first two sets, Evans and Skupski stepped up a gear in the tie-break to level the match.
A nail-biting deciding set also remained on serve – but only after Evans recovered from a double fault that yielded three match points at 5-4.
Evans found a first serve to save one as Roger-Vasselin hit a forehand into the net, boldly watched another return go just long on the second, then saw the Frenchman push a forehand wide over the third.
The two Britons saved another match point on Skupski’s serve at 6-5 before converting their second opportunity in the deciding tie-break.
“There was no panic,” said Skupski, 33, world number three in doubles and this year’s Wimbledon champion.
“We moved on to the next point. I knew if we somehow got this game right, the momentum was going to shift in our favor.”
When Britain sealed victory around 10:00 p.m. BST, Skupski knelt and roared after seeing a French return fly long while Evans fell on his back in disbelief.
Both men were quickly mobbed by teammates and support staff, including Andy Murray, a Union Jack wearing bucket hat.
“Singles is singles and I feel comfortable on that court, but doubles was chaos,” Evans said.
“I kept telling Neal ‘we have a chance, we have a chance’ and we both kept going. We stayed together.
“It’s emotional. You want to be with these guys in the final. It’s a moment of immense pride for me and for the team.”
Inspired Evans thrives in Davis Cup atmosphere
With a strong squad at his disposal, Great Britain captain Smith had a tough choice to make for the tie against a talented French side.
In the end he chose his highest-ranked players in Evans and Norrie, with former world number one Murray and promising youngster Jack Draper missing.
The move also allowed Evans – who would have played second if lower-ranked Murray or Draper had been selected – to be able to take a break before what turned out to be the deciding doubles.
The world number 27 was particularly inspired all week in Manchester, thriving in the partisan atmosphere of the team event and winning both of his singles matches.
“The Davis Cup is the reason I played tennis in the first place,” said Evans, who is originally from the West Midlands.
“I remember watching the Birmingham matches, which finished late on a Sunday evening. That was really my first introduction to professional tennis.
“It was the key to playing the Davis Cup for my country – and it still is. I’m not a nervous person, but before playing the Davis Cup it’s a different feeling.”
Source link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/tennis/66838065