Cameron Norrie And Dan Evans Get GB Davis Cup Campaign Off To A Winning Start

Great Britain got their Davis Cup campaign off to the perfect start on Saturday
15:30, 27 Nov 2021

Great Britain got their Davis Cup campaign off to a winning start on Saturday by taking the opening Group C tie 2-1 against France in front of an empty arena in Innsbruck – delivered by straight-sets singles wins for No1 Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans. 

Britain had the ranking advantage over the French and made it count, with world No25 Evans winning a hard-fought contest 7-5, 6-4 against Adrian Mannarino before British No1 Norrie sealed the victory with 6-2, 7-6 (10-8) win against event debutant Arthur Rinderknech.  

And despite GB’s Joe Salisbury and Neal Skupski losing the doubles 6-1, 6-4 to Nicolas Mahut and the impressive Rinderknech - who replaced Pierre-Hugues-Herbert - they are now still just about favourites to top the pool going into Sunday’s second and final match against the Czech Republic. The doubles loss, however, could yet be damaging if things do not go to plan against the Czechs.

With Austria in lockdown only the enthusiastic team benches in the Covid bubbles were allowed in the arena, and they did their best to make up for the lack of atmosphere from having no fans seated in the court cheering on the players. 

But Norrie, who played in the recent ATP Finals as a late call-up, held firm and called on all of his recent positive experiences as he has surged up the world rankings in very tight second set, that went to a long tie-break as Rinderknech’s powerful serve kept him in the match. 

Two breaks in the first set made the first set comfortable for Norrie, but Rinderknech led 4-1 in the second set tie-break and also had two set points, one on his own serve. 

Norrie said: “It was a difficult match especially with a lot on the line. He was serving rockets, I was doing my best to get the ball deep and get into the rallies but he also came up with some great volleys in the tiebreak and saved break points earlier in the second set. 

“But the team were right behind me, that was great with no fans and they created a lot of energy and helped lift me over the line in the clutch tie-break. All credit to Arthur, he played well and fortunately I was able to get over the line.” 

It had been confirmed earlier that there would be no Andy Murray for GB, after he decided to rest and having also observed that he “probably didn’t deserve to be in the team anyway”. 

Captain Leon Smith said on that issue: “The selfish hat can go on and as a captain you are wanting your best possible squad. It's good to have options. If you'd had someone like Andy, who is back playing very, very well, it would have just added a layer of options into the team. 

“But more than that it's the presence as well, the experience, the fun, he's a good friend of everyone in the team. It comes on the practice court - the intensity and the operating standards.” 

Dan Evans
Dan Evans

France had left out Gasquet for the tie after the veteran lost his singles in the 2-1 win against the Czech Republic to Tomas Machac, and went for their two highest ranked players in the singles, in Mannarino and with competition debutant Rinderknech drafted in. 

The 31-year-old Evans from Birmingham brings a bit of the Ian Poulter Ryder Cup spirit to the GB Davis Cup team and remains a terrific competitor for this format holding a real pride in playing for his country. 

His job had been to get an early win on the board and set up a platform for Norrie to finish things off without any need for the doubles match – and despite a battle against the talented Mannarino, that is precisely what he did. 

Mannarino, 33, and ranked No71, has like Evans an impressive array of shots at his disposal without some of the raw power in the locker of many players at the top of the game. But caressing the ball over the net proved not enough to take on the bulldog that is Evans on a roll. 

Evans had already been putting pressure on the Mannarino before finally breaking in the 7th game of the first set. He threw in a poor game serving for the set at 5-4 but redeemed himself immediately afterwards and closed it out to take the set 7-5. 

In the second set Evans showed his new ruthlessness by breaking at the critical moment to lead 5-4, and this time served it out for the match at the first attempt. 

Evans said: "It's a rollercoaster, there are so many emotions involved. I'm just happy to come through it, It's not easy to come out play first. I thought about the match all week and it's difficult to come out and get your game on the court. 

"It's great to play for my country and get a point on the board. There's only a few better number ones in the world than Cam, and I wanted to set it up for him. All the pressure is then on the other guy to get it to one-all and that was my job.” 

“I felt very nervous coming out first and I was happy to get over the line. I knew [the atmosphere] was going to be good after the French national anthem. They were all singing loud: it’s a passionate country, and we’re very passionate, as well. I think both benches did a great job - it was a decent atmosphere considering no-one else was in the stadium.” 

Smith added after the doubles: “We will get the guys rested and fed and prepared well for the game against the Czech Republic on Sunday, their matches against France were all close.” 

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