By Ros Satar at the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid

  • Kyle Edmund def. Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 6-3
  • Alexander Bublik def. Dan Evans 5-7, 6-4, 6-1
  • Jamie Murray/Neal Skupski def. Alexander Bublik/Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 6-4
MADRID, SPAIN – Great Britain advance to the quarter-finals, relying once more on the deciding doubles rubber as they beat Kazakhstan 2-1.

 

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Kyle Edmund def. Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 6-3

With Great Britain trailing Kazakhstan in terms of sets, and games at the start of the day, the calculation was clear – it was a must win for both sides to guarantee qualification into Friday evening’s quarter-finals.

With Andy Murray being rested after being on court for almost three hours yesterday it was on Kyle Edmund’s shoulders to carry Great Britain into a lead. It has been a tough year for Edmund – first losing coach Fredrik Rosengren to retirement, ad after a run of poor results, he parted company with Mark Hilton. He had enough of a resurgence right at the tail end of the year to pip Cameron Norrie for the final Davis Cup place.

With the fierce support from the Kazakhstan band that made the atmosphere earlier this year at the Copperbox unforgettable, it was all eyes on Edmund, as he toiled in the sixth game to make good on four chances to break, before continuing on to wrap up the set.

He found himself under pressure early in the second set, saving two break points, as he worked to wear down the tour veteran and tireless workhorse that is Mikhail Kukushkin, breaking in the middle and then at the end of the set (to love, no less) to give GB a foothold on a place in Friday night’s quarter-finals.

It has been gratifying for Edmund to finish the year on a positive, after being in the doldrums for much of the year.

He said, after the match: “I had a good feeling about how I’ve been going about my practice this week and my performance on court. I was trying to just transform that onto the match court. I was just eager to really put myself out there and play my way. I’m very expressive with how I play my game. I was happy with what I did.

“The team spirit’s been great. Davis Cup week is always really fun. I wanted to be on the team. I knew there was a chance I wasn’t going to get picked between me and Cam. But when Leon told me I was going to play, that I would be in the team, I was really chuffed, looking forward to it.

“It’s been a different type of week because of the new format. But we’ve been together longer, like two weeks now, instead of maybe just a week. It’s been really good. I’ve really enjoyed it. The stuff we’ve done off the court has been good fun. I’m sure you’ve seen on social media and stuff. But it’s been good. We couldn’t have done anything more in preparation for the matches.”

 

Alexander Bublik def. Dan Evans 5-7, 6-4, 6-1

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Two talented but at times volatile players were next to take to the court, with Dan Evans as the British No. 1 facing Alexander Bublik. Only lagging slightly behind Evans in the rankings, Bublik can be unplayable when he is on, and was the first to break, but Evans kept his cool to break straight back and stop British hearts having palpitations.

Bublik had a couple more chances to surge ahead, but could not convert, leaving it to Evans to break for the set, in a very even contest. At the start of the second set, it was Bublik again pushing with a break point chance, again unconverted, before Evans got a chance of his own to go ahead but could not see it over the line.

Evans was allowing himself to get rattled, giving Bublik a chance he could not turn down as he broke and put himself in the driving seat to serve out the second set to level the match. The start of the third set could not have started worse for Evans with two straight breaks, starting to echo the scenario from Wednesday going up a set and then watching that commanding position dwindle away.

Although Evans claimed one game, Bublik ran riot in the decider, levelling the tie and once more leaving it to the deciding doubles to work out who would qualify as of right.

Evans said: “I’ve obviously had two tough days. It’s just difficult. Obviously, I want to get a point on the board for the guys so then they don’t go into this match — now it’s pretty much winner-takes-all, I think. Yes, it’s disappointing, obviously. As it is in this format, you’ve got to get — you know, you could lose, and you could be playing again tomorrow. It’s just difficult.”

At the moment it feels that the head that wears the crown lies uneasy, and it just goes to show how much of a figurehead Murray was during his long tenure as the British No. 1 not only carrying the success of the sport on his shoulders, but almost its unofficial leader.

Evans continued: “At the minute, the No. 1 guy is the weak, the weak one at the minute (laughing). We’ve got a great team, you know. We can move it around. Like, Andy didn’t play today and then Kyle come in and did a great job getting us 1-0 up.

“Obviously, there’s a few different combinations in doubles we can play. I thought the doubles last night was exceptional. And then they’ve got another hard match now to try and get us through. Yeah, I’m really happy with how everyone’s been playing and it’s great to see everyone fighting so hard on the court.”

 

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Jamie Murray/Neal Skupski def. Alexander Bublik/Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 6-4

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For the second time in as many days the doubles players, who once thought their participation would be marginalised in the new format would have to come to the rescue. All wins count in the group stages, and none more so that this for GB to top the group.

With Kazakhstan fielding its two singles players, Kukushkin and Bublik, there was a worrying moment for the latter looking as though his neck and shoulder was causing him some pain.  The fact that Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski play already on the tour served them well. The more established team broke twice in succession before battling to the first set.

The Brits broke at the start of the second set but found themselves under pressure fending off a break point to keep their slim margin with Murray banging down an ace on break point and serving himself out of trouble. However, on their next service game it was Skupski who felt the pressure, getting broken.

It is a measure of the rookie’s ability that Skupski pumped himself up to force a British break back. Murray served it out on his second match point to reach the quarter-finals of this inaugural format.

Murray said, of the up-coming quarter-final against Germany: “I think the guys are pretty similar ranked in the singles. And the doubles guys had a great year winning the French Open and a couple of other tournaments in qualifying through to the Tour Finals for the first time. So I’m sure they’re feeling good about themselves.

“I think everyone, at the start of the week every country wanted to get out of the group. So I’m sure they’ll be feeling good. I think we’re really excited to be playing them in the quarterfinals. I don’t think our guys will hold any fear to play them, and likewise, I think it’s going to be a very evenly-matched tie and really excited to get the chance to go out there and compete again.”

Skupski has been the revelation of the GB team this week. Making his debut in a must-win rubber to get GB on the board with an overall win in the tie, he was equally pumped and was pivotal in the team’s win.

He said: “It’s been another good day for us. Very proud to get the win today with Jamie. I thought we fought hard. I think we’re playing well. I mean, we’ve played [Kevin] Krawietz[Andreas] Mies a couple of weeks ago in Paris. They got the better of us in straight sets. But obviously you learn from that match and you try and take the positives from that match. So we’ll look forward to tomorrow.

“And then, obviously, the singles guys, [Jan-Lennard] Struff and [Philipp] Kohlschreiber, they’re going to be tough opposition for us. But we’ve got a squad that can rotate and we’ll be ready to go.”

Great Britain face Germany in the quarter-final, scheduled on Stadium 2 at 5:30pm (4:30pm 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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