By Ros Satar
- Dan Evans def. Denis Istomin 7-6(4) 4-6 0-6 6-4 7-5
- GB lead Uzbekistan 1-0 in the World group Play Off
- Evans first five-set win since defeating Martin Klizan in the David Cup group stages in 2012.
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – Dan Evans put GB in the lead in the Davis Cup World Group Play-off against Uzbekistan with his first five-set win since 2012.
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Dan Evans def. Denis Istomin 7-6(4) 4-6 0-6 6-4 7-5
It might not have been packed to the rafters on a ‘dreich’ Glaswegian day, that had everyone extremely thankful that the tie would be taking place indoors. That being said, Friday’s crowd gave the teams a rapturous welcome, as the opening tie would prove to be a tough one.
Dan Evans, making his GB return for the first time since the 2017 World Group quarter-finals where GB lost to France in Rouen, and was looking to improve on a 6-14 record in singles for his country.
Despite the obvious gap in rankings, Evans withstood early signs of Istomin looking to toy with the returning Brit, with Evans bringing up multiple chances to break in the first set, but not quite able to find a way through the Istomin defence. Istomin’s chances were non-existent, not finding any joy on the Evans serve, and when Evans did get his breakthrough in the tie-break it was enough to see him through to take the first set.
Despite a quick start to the second set with an early break, Evans was pegged straight back. In a mammoth game, Evans saw five break points chances come and go as he battled to regain the advantage. Istomin was proving to on the ascendancy as he finally converted on break point chances of his own to gain the lead before serving out to level the match.
With that the momentum was firmly on Istomin’s side as he ripped through the third set to love, with Evans playing his first best-of-five set match since the first round of Roland Garros last year, losing in four sets. We have to go back to his third-round match at the US Open in 2016 when he last went the distance.
It was a return to a far more competitive level in the fourth set, with another chance for Evans to take a lead squandered, and a little later in deflecting a break point on his own serve to stay toe-to-toe with Istomin, breaking him at the end of the set to level the match.
First blood in the decider went to Istomin as he capitalised on a weary looing game from the Brit. Just as quickly though, he turned in a poor game of his own, gifting Evans the break straight back. The twists came as the pair traded breaks once more.
Evans did not have to do too much to bring up three match points as Istomin seemed to have the serving yips. Istomin hung in to save five match points before finally Evans sealed GB’s first win on the board in the tie.
This is an important win for the team. Istomin had been relied upon to get them two wins, and with Cameron Norrie’s star on the rise against the World No. 434 Jurabek Karimov, who is playing his third Davis Cup appearance and in only his second live rubber.
Istomin praised Evans’ level after the match, admitting that perhaps the effort of playing in the Asian Games in Indonesia, and then a long trip to Chicago had left him a little tired towards the end.
Istomin said: “In five-set matches you never think that you win. You try to play until the end. The third set was easy but I was expecting the fourth will be tough. He’s come back into the match and I think I get a little bit tired and the end of the fourth set and also the fifth set I wasn’t serving well like in the beginning. But he was playing very good.
“[Evans] has a big level, he was top 100, actually I think Top 50, so he’s a great player. I meant eh ranking doesn’t say anything. Some players, they don’t play – look at Andy, he’s also down in the ranking but I think even he, if he be healthy he will be like Top 10 pretty soon.”
Evans has been a stalwart of the Davis Cup team, but was still coming up short in terms of wins, now standing at 7-14. Although his absence from the sport was covered up and explained as five months starting unranked, Evans confessed he still had doubts about whether he would ever regain the form that took him to his highest career ranking of World No. 41.
He said, after the match: “I was nervous to see how people would react when I came back to play. Obviously opinions differ on what I did, but everyone I played in front of have been great and the players on tour have welcomed me back.
“For sure, I still have moments now. I’m nowhere near back there yet, I’m only 200 in the world. I still have doubts now if I’ll get back but that’s pretty normal. Days like today make you see light at the end of the tunnel.”
The tie continues with the Doubles on Saturday, starting at 2pm.
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