|2019 Davis Cup Finals|
|Venue: Caja Magica, Madrid Dates: 18-24 November|
|Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from Wednesday, 20 November; Live text coverage on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app. Click here for Live Guide.|
Great Britain’s attempt to reach the knockout stage of the inaugural Davis Cup finals will go to a pivotal doubles rubber after Dan Evans lost in three sets to Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik.
Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski must win to secure a quarter-final against Germany on Friday in Madrid.
Evans, knowing victory would ensure Britain won Group E, lost 5-7 6-4 6-1.
Kyle Edmund stepped up in Andy Murray’s absence to beat Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3 6-3 earlier.
Former world number one Murray was rested against the Kazakhs as he continues his comeback from hip surgery, but could return to face Group C winners Germany in the last eight – if Britain make it.
Under the new format, led by Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique, the 16 nations are split into six groups of three with the group winners automatically progressing.
The two best runners-ups will also join them, although Britain would not be one of them if they lose to Kazakhstan.
Evans falters as Britain can’t get over the line
Britain made hard work of beating a Netherlands side they were expected to see off more comfortably in their opening group tie on Wednesday, leaving Evans and Edmund needing to deliver in hard-to-call matches against a pair of talented Kazakhs who are well established inside the top 100.
While Edmund earned an impressive win, Evans again faltered from a winning position in a similar fashion to his defeat by top-ranked Dutchman Robin Haase.
Evans, 29, is ranked as Britain’s top male player after a strong season which has seen him climb back into the top 50 and earn main-draw victories at three of the four Grand Slams.
However, another collapse against the talented but erratic Bublik leaves him without a victory in either of his singles rubbers in the Spanish capital.
Bublik, 22, handed the first set over to Evans with a double fault which led to him smashing his racquet on the hard court, yet it was the Kazakh’s bold service game which enabled him draw level.
Evans lost his serve for a 5-4 deficit after a lengthy game which saw Bublik convert his fourth break point, allowing the Kazakh to serve out from 0-30 with the help of aces – on both first and second serves – topping 130mph.
From that point momentum remained with Bublik as confidence drained from Evans in a final set which lasted less than half an hour, the world number 57 breaking three times to leave the colourful Kazakh support delighted.
Edmund rediscovers form to give GB advantage
Murray’s absence was unsurprising after the Scot laboured to a three-set win over Dutch world number 179 Tallon Griekspoor on Wednesday, which left him admitting he was not as sharp as he would like to be after taking a month off competitive tennis to spend with his new-born son and family.
That placed the pressure on 24-year-old Edmund to perform, at the end of a year in which he struggled for wins and tumbled down the world rankings as a result.
But Edmund, the 2018 Australian Open semi-finalist who has dropped to 69th in the world, outplayed 67th-ranked Kukushkin in a noisy Caja Magica.
Kukushkin was backed about 100 boisterous and colourful fans, armed with drums and a trombone like they were when their women’s team played Britain in the Fed Cup earlier this year.
However, that did not put off Edmund, who himself was well supported by a noisy contingent of Union Jack-waving British supporters, who have travelled to Madrid in their droves.
Edmund showed no signs of the troubles which have plagued him on the ATP Tour this year, hitting 10 aces and 23 winners in a dominant performance.
The Yorkshireman’s explosive forehand – his key weapon – was particularly destructive, helping him take his fourth chance in the decisive break of the first set and save two break points in the following game.
After breaking again for a 4-2 lead in the second set, he took eight of the last nine points to race through the closing stages, converting his first match point when Kukushkin hit a forehand long.
That meant Edmund won in just one hour and 15 minutes, leaving the celebrating British fans dancing in the stands, while finally silencing the Kazakhs.
“The atmosphere has been amazing, I think we have got the most travelling fans so amazing to get so many people coming here from Britain,” Edmund said.