Salisbury And Skupski Take GB Into Davis Cup Quarters After Earlier Norrie Win

Britain beat Czech Republic 2-1 despite Dan Evans' singles defeat
15:40, 28 Nov 2021

Great Britain clinched their place in the Davis Cup quarter-finals on Saturday afternoon with a hotly-contested 2-1 win over the Czech Republic in Innsbruck, and it was the specialist doubles pairing of Joe Salisbury and Neal Skupski who sealed victory in the tie by beating Jiri Vesely and Tomas Machac 6-4, 6-2. 

GB, who finished Group C with two wins after also seeing off France, are bidding to win the Davis Cup for an 11th time, the most recent occasion coming in 2015. Before that, you have to go back to 1936 for success in the international team competition.

But, after a rollercoaster tie against the Czechs in which youngsters Machac and Jiri Lehecka outperformed their lowly world rankings, Leon Smith’s men pulled through. Earlier Cameron Norrie had levelled the tie with a three-set win over Lehecka after Dan Evans had lost the opener to the inspired Machac. 

Salisbury said: “It feels very special to get my first Davis Cup win in a match like that. The bench made it an amazing atmosphere even without any fans here, the whole support team made up for that. Playing for your country, bein here and getting the win is special.” 

Skupski added: “We were very disappointed losing against the French doubles team on Saturday. We regrouped and wanted a good start with a lot of energy and positivity to try and play free, and it worked in the end.” 

Skipper Smith was proud of his team's effort, saying: “It is great to get to another quarter-final. Today was really tough, people looked at the rankings and thought this would be straightforward but it is never like that, the young Czech team played really well, and we have done that as underdogs in the past.  

“The young lad Machac against Dan Evans played like a top-20 player and a great match. Then Cameron dug deep when he needed it.” 

The day had begun with British number two Evans on the wrong end of a mauling from 21-year-old Machac to put GB firmly on the back foot in their bid to get out of Group C and into the knockout phase. Machac, ranked 143 in the world, made a mockery of that status with big serving and powerful ground strokes to blow world No. 25 Evans away 6-2 in the first set – serving three aces as he closed it out.

Birmingham’s Evans desperately tried to fire himself up – a little too much at the start of the second set as he obliterated a racket after falling 0-40 down on his opening service game which he went on to lose. But he rallied and appeared to be poised when moving 5-2 ahead and then having a chance to serve out the set at 5-3.

But the 31-year-old chose that moment to throw in a shocker of a game with his forehand breaking down, and Machac, who also beat France’s Richard Gasquet in his first tie, took full advantage – winning the last five games to take the match 6-2, 7-5.

BRITAIN LAST WON THE DAVIS CUP IN BELGIUM IN 2015
BRITAIN LAST WON THE DAVIS CUP IN BELGIUM IN 2015

That piled a bit more pressure on British No1 Norrie, the 26-year-old who has enjoyed such a fine season in rising to No12 in the world - but he responded well at the start against the 20-year-old Lehecka, taking the first set 6-1 with three breaks of serve.

There then followed a near-collapse in the second set from Norrie, one that he lost 6-2 to leave the tie once more right in the balance. But with roars of encouragement from the GB bench not least from Evans he found his form at the right time to seal a 6-1, 2-6, 6-1 victory in the ultimate ‘game of three sets’. 

Norrie said: “There is obviously a bit of pressure coming out for your match at 1-0 down. But I was feeling good and comfortable in the morning, and came out firing in the first set. 

“At the start of the second set I missed a couple of first serves and he was playing more aggressively, I went down a break and got a bit down on myself. But the bench were incredible and got me back up. 

“And that helped me get to a similar level again in the third set. It is never easy being the favourite, and in that situation but I really enjoyed the match and looked to my forehand and being aggressive with that all the match. 

“At the end of the second set I just felt I had missed a lot of first balls and given him a lot of cheap points, plus he raised his level and was serving big. But when I left the court I managed to re-set and play my game at the end for what was a must-win match.” 

So it was over to Salisbury ansd Skupski for the decisive doubles against two players who had both played in doubles, but never together – handing the Brits a significant advantage. GB made the crucial break of Vesely’s serve to move 5-4 up in the first set before taking that 6-4. And Salisbury and Skupski were always in control in the second set, taking that 6-2. 

GB’s opponents in the quarter-finals will be Germany. Even without world No3 Alex Zverev, who withdrew after a successful but arduous season, the Germans won Group F by beating Austria 2-1 in their match on Sunday night – their second victory of the group after beating Serbia by the same score. 

After Dominik Koepfer lost 6-1, 7-5 to Jurij Rodionov, Jan Lennard Struff beat Dennis Novak 7-5, 6-4. And in the decisive doubles Kevin Krawietz and Tim Putz beat Oliver Marach and Philipp Oswald 6-3, 6-4. The quarter-final will take place in Innsbruck on Tuesday. 

EVANS 150/1 TO WIN AUS OPEN - BETFRED*

*18+ | BeGambleAware

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