By Ros Satar at the Davis Cup Final in Madrid

  • Robin Haase def. Dan Evans 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4
  • Jamie Murray/Neal Skupski def. Wesley Koolhof/Jean-Julien Rojer 6-4, 7-6(6)
  • A major decision for Leon Smith about Andy Murray’s fitness or Kyle Edmund’s readiness
MADRID, SPAIN – It all came down to the deciding doubles for Great Britain in their first foray into the new format with Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski sparing GB’s blushes.

 

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Robin Haase def. Dan Evans 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4

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Having seen Andy Murray fight back from seemingly the brink in his decider, there were high hopes for British No. 1 Dan Evans to put Britain 2-0 ahead in the tie and give us a comfortable cushion for points to come out of the group stage.

It could not have started any better for Evans, leaping out to a 3-0 lead and holding on to his advantage to snap up the first set in short order. However, the Netherlands’ Robin Haase is experienced and from the start of the second set, was putting pressure on Evans pushing him hard in the second game of the second set, bringing up six break points, all saved by Evans.

It looked as though that would have broken the Dutchman as Evans would break for the lead, only to be pegged back. It was Evans’ turn to struggle to get multiple break points over the line, before seeing a 3-1 lead in the tie-break erode, as the Netherlands evened things up.

That momentum stayed with Haase as he broke Evans at the start of the decider, breaking Evans, with the Brit holding him off a couple more times in the match, but that single break was all Haase needed, along with three match points in the final game to send Britain to a deciding doubles rubber.

From having been in comtrol, it was a tough loss for Evans whose focus this year has been remarkable.

He said: “It’s difficult to lose, obviously in a winning position. But as you said, the boys had to go out there and then it’s my job and everybody else’s job to get behind them. Unfortunately, they have to be getting ready when I’m playing.

“The job is to back everybody in the team. I can’t sit in the changing room and be annoyed. I have to get back out there and I’ve got another job to do, and support the guys and get them through. And yeah, I thought they were unbelievable out there, especially to come back from a break down in the second.”

 

Jamie Murray/Neal Skupski def. Wesley Koolhof/Jean-Julien Rojer 6-4, 7-6(6)

It would prove to be a baptism of fire for Davis Cup rookie, Neal Skupski as he made his debut alongside his regular doubles partner and Davis Cup regular Jamie Murray.

In a set plagued with technical issues with the advertising hoardings, first flickering twice, and then coming back brightly with repeated recycle bins, the British pair somehow managed to keep their wits together to take the first set.

The Brits surrendered an early break and it was looking increasingly like we were headed for a third decider, before Skupski drilled a forehand down the tramlines to break back. Heading into the tie-break, and finding themselves facing set points.

Murrays experience showed through, and Skupski was pumped up as they overturned two set points to bring up a match point of their own. They needed just the one chance to put Great Britain on the group scoreboard and with two losses, the Netherlands find themselves out of the competition.

Skupski showed no jitters as the finish line got ever closer, but was predictably downbeat about their performance in the grand scheme of the team focus.

He said: “It was a tough situation to go into, but we have prepared well, we’ve put the preparation in, and it’s obviously shown on the court today. I thought it’s not just me that played well, Jamie played great today. And then hopefully we can keep the performance up tomorrow.”

 

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Tough decisions for Leon Smith

Leon Smith and Andy Murray in a GB practice session at the 2019 Davis Cup Finals, Madrid

Leon Smith and Andy Murray in a GB practice session at the 2019 Davis Cup Finals, Madrid | (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for LTA)

At the end of what has been a long day of almost nine hours of play for one tie, Smith will need to assess the fitness of Murray against the readiness of Kyle Edmund.

Smith said: “I was proud of how Andy managed to find a way. It obviously proves a crucial rubber win for us. I think Evo’s match, we could have been sitting here in a straight-sets victory and that would have felt great. Just a matter of points away from that. But it wasn’t to be.

“And then the doubles was obviously a great performance. Delighted to see Jamie play that well. He showed a lot of big experience in playing. It was not easy playing in the deciding rubber. And, of course, what Neal has managed to do I think is great. It’s not easy doing what he’s just done.”

Netherlands was seen as the real underdogs of the group, and now have been eliminated but if the Thursday’s matches go as long as today’s it will be a tough ask for Murray to be considered as a key player continually, through to the knockout stages.

Smith continued: “I’m sure we’ll have a conversation about that tonight. I think that’s something that will happen. I’ve been sat on my backside for a long time since he’s finished so I haven’t had a chance to speak to him or talk to anyone yet.

“I think clearly after a match like that he’s going to be feeling tired, isn’t he? And yeah, I think there will be a conversation about that tonight. I think we’ve got really good options in the singles. If it’s Evo and Kyle go out tomorrow, if it’s any other combination of the three, then I think we’ve got great options. It’s another tough day tomorrow, isn’t it? Two quality singles players they’ve got so it’s going to be difficult.”

GB play Kazakhstan, starting at 11am (10am GMT).

 

How to watch the Davis Cup Finals

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Monday 18 November 3pm – 9pm
  Tuesday 19-Saturday 23 November 10am – 11pm
  Sunday 24 November 3pm – 9pm

 

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