The United Kingdom overcame a stumbling start to upset the Czech Republic and advance to the Davis Cup quarter-finals.
Leon Smith’s team topped Group C with a win over France on Saturday, but the three-rubber format used in the finals event offers little space for error.
As a result of Dan Evans’ 6-2 7-5 loss to Tomas Machac, his teammates had to step up, with Cameron Norrie overcoming Jiri Lehecka 6-1 2-6 6-1 before Joe Salisbury and Neal Skupski won the final doubles 6-4 6-2 against Machac and Jiri Vesely.
With the win, Britain will stay in the tranquilly of locked-down Innsbruck for a quarter-final on Tuesday, which will be a rematch of Smith’s side’s win against Germany in 2019.
“It was a challenging encounter,” Evans remarked after Machac, who is rated more than 100 places lower than Evans, won the biggest victory of his career. He performed admirably. I didn’t perform as well as I had hoped. In the second set, I was in a winning position but didn’t take it. Actually, I’m a little indecisive.
“However, the Czech Republic is usually a strong opponent in Davis Cup.” They’ve always played with a lot of heart and have always performed brilliantly. I had a feeling they’d be fantastic.”
Despite a strong first set, Britain was put under strain, and Norrie did not have it all his own way against 20-year-old Lehecka.
The British No. 1 lost his way in the second set, allowing his young opponent to take full advantage, but Norrie’s confidence is high after such a successful season.
The crucial moments came early in the third when Norrie saved a breakpoint and then broke Lehecka in a long game before pulling away to win.
Salisbury and Skupski were outplayed by France in the doubles, but with a win on the line, they were considerably sharper from the start here, taking advantage of two double faults by Vesely to break for 5-4.
Salisbury, in particular, had appeared apprehensive on Saturday, but he looked much more like a four-time Grand Slam champion here, displaying outstanding net skills and being backed up by Skupski’s strong performance.
They took the lead early in the second set, and a comeback was never in the cards, with the British team ecstatically celebrating at the end.
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