Davis Cup: Rafael Nadal beats GB’s Dan Evans to level semi-final at 1-1

Rafael Nadal
Nadal was cheered on by a lively home crowd at the Caja Magica in Madrid
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.

Dan Evans could not clinch Great Britain’s place in the Davis Cup final after a 6-4 6-0 defeat by Spain’s world number one Rafael Nadal.

Doubles pair Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski will put Britain into Sunday’s showpiece against Canada if they win the decisive rubber later.

The best-of-three contest is level at 1-1 after Kyle Edmund beat Spain’s Feliciano Lopez in straight sets.

Andy Murray has again not featured for GB at the 18-team finals in Madrid.

Jamie Murray and Davis Cup debutant Skupski have won both of the deciding rubbers they have needed to play this week.

The pair, who are regular partners on the ATP Tour, are set to face Nadal and Lopez in front of a partisan 12,500 crowd in the Spanish capital.

Britain, who won the Davis Cup in 2015, are competing in their third semi-final in five years.

Canada await Britain or Spain after they beat Russia in the first semi-final to reach the final for the first time.

Home favourite Nadal too strong for Evans

After Edmund again proved his worth in the continued absence of Andy Murray, Evans had the opportunity – however unlikely it seemed – to beat Nadal and put Britain into the final.

The British number one acquitted himself well in a tight opening set, looking nerveless against the 19-time Grand Slam champion in front of a hostile crowd trying to unsettle him.

Evans put pressure on Nadal’s serve in the third game without creating a break point, then fought off two himself in the next as he looked to wear the Spaniard down as much as possible in the event of a deciding doubles.

Eventually his resistance broke in what proved to be the final game of the opener, Nadal teeing up three break points with a stunning backhand winner which found the line and taking the final one when Evans pushed wide.

For the first time in the tie, the colourful Spanish crowd ecstatically erupted in unison – partly in relief – as they sensed a deciding rubber was on the cards.

Nadal broke at the first opportunity in a contrasting second set and from that point it spiralled out of control for Evans.

The Briton won just nine points as Nadal wrapped up the set in half an hour for a 6-4 6-0 win.

Kyle Edmund
Edmund had a losing streak of eight matches between early August and the end of October before ending that miserable run with a couple of wins at the Paris Masters

Edmund delivers again in Murray’s absence

One of the major talking points in the British camp this week has been the fitness of Andy Murray, who has not played since a rusty performance in a three-set win over Dutch world number 179 Tallon Griekspoor on Wednesday.

Yet it is credit to Edmund that Murray’s absence has not hampered British hopes in the tournament like it once would have done.

World number 69 Edmund has put a poor year on the ATP Tour behind him in the Spanish capital, playing freely and hitting cleanly to thrive in the team environment with his national side.

After straight-set wins against Kazakhstan and Germany, the Yorkshireman was again preferred to three-time Grand Slam champion Murray and again repaid the faith shown in him by Great Britain captain Leon Smith.

Edmund hit eight aces and 15 winners in a one-sided first set against an undercooked Lopez, who has not played in the singles this week and struggled to cope with the Briton’s groundstrokes.

Lopez, who memorably won the Queen’s singles title as well as the doubles alongside Andy Murray this year, was drafted into the Spanish team at late notice after original pick Pablo Carreno Busta withdrew with a leg injury.

Eventually the 38-year-old found his rhythm in a tighter second set, but was unable to take two set points at 5-4 after some nerveless serving from Edmund helped him survive.

That led to the tie-break, played out in increased tension in the Caja Magica, where Edmund dominated and held his nerve to take his third match point.

“I was just enjoying going out to the semi-finals of a Davis Cup against Spain,” said Edmund. “I knew it was going to be loud out there. And it almost, in a way, it didn’t matter who I was playing, I was just concentrating on being me first and putting myself out there.

“And I dealt with it really well, I thought.”

GB tennis fans
Great Britain fans cheer during Kyle Edmund’s match

GB fans turn out in force

Britain were backed by almost 1,000 fans at the Caja Magica after the Lawn Tennis Association sourced an additional 975 tickets to give out free to supporters.

Andy Murray announced the plan on Instagram shortly after Friday’s quarter-final win over Germany and LTA chief executive Scott Lloyd said the governing body had received an “overwhelming” response.

Lloyd added LTA staff had “worked through the night” to ensure fans who were successful were notified and able to collect their tickets in plenty of time.

The British governing body managed to secure an extra 800 tickets, at a cost of about £60,000 to them, meaning there are almost 1,000 fans among a partisan 12,500 crowd in the Spanish capital.

“We had thousands of messages and emails off people wanting to come here and support. They came in from far and wide,” Lloyd told BBC Sport.

Murray had also instructed the British fans to make “plenty of noise” in the indoor arena – and they did exactly that as Edmund’s performance deflated the home crowd.

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November 2019