Belgium are in prime position to progress to September’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-offs after taking a 2-0 lead over Great Britain on the opening day of the Euro/Africa Zone Group I clash in Glasgow.
In the opening rubber, world No. 68 Steve Darcis was the clear favourite against Josh Goodall, ranked 185 places lower. But it was Goodall who took a tight first set in the tiebreak, before Darcis fought back to win the match 67(2) 63 64 64 in two hours and 51 minutes.
World No. 344 Dan Evans was the home hero in February’s tie against the Slovak Republic and the Brit put in another great effort here, going down to world No. 59 Oliver Rochus 36 64 76(7) 64 in a three hour, 15 minute match which was of high quality throughout.
Afterwards, Belgium captain Johan van Herck paid tribute to the players. He said: “I think we owe them a lot of respect. Rochus against Evans was one of the best matches I have seen lately. I think every player who goes out on court deserves a lot of respect because it is not easy to play Davis Cup.”
Britain must now win tomorrow’s doubles to keep the tie alive. Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins are favourites against Ruben Bemelmans and David Goffin. British captain Leon Smith said: “Ross and Colin are in a good place in terms of their confidence and they will be eager to get out there and get that rubber on the board so we can go into Sunday in a live situation.”
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South Africa and Slovenia are locked at 1-1 after the opening day at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Johannseburg. Blaz Kavcic beat Ruan Roelofse 67(4) 61 61 63, before Izak van der Merwe levelled the tie, beating Grega Zemlja 61 36 63 64.
22-year-old Roelofse was making his Davis Cup debut and made a great start against Kavcic, ranked 164 places higher, taking a tight first set in the tiebreak. But once the South African was broken early in the second set, he was overcome by the occasion and never recovered.
Kavcic said: “The big difference between us today was the world ranking because it started showing at the start of the second set. I've been playing on clay for several weeks so I needed the time to adjust. It wasn't about shots in this match, it was about experience to cope with the situation.”
Van der Merwe then levelled the tie with a four-set victory over Zemlja. He will now team with Raven Klaasen tomorrow and, as the higher-ranked pair, will be favourites in a crucial rubber against Kavcic & Zemlja.
South Africa captain John-Laffnie de Jager said: “The doubles is going to be critical for us because of how well the Slovenians played in the singles. I've settled for Van der Merwe and Klaasen because they are our most experienced players and I expect them to get us the doubles match.”
Backed by a loud and passionate home support in Ramot Hasharon, Israel are in a commading position with a 2-0 lead over Portugal. Dudi Sela got the home side off to a perfect start, beating Frederico Gil 63 64 64 in one hour and 55 minutes.
Sela said: “It was difficult to play on the court. It was faster than usual but I got a break in each set and that was enough. I'm pleased I didn’t lose my serve today.”
Despite feeling nervous towards the end, world No. 199 Amir Weintraub completed an excellent 57 63 61 75 win over Rui Machado, ranked No. 101. The Israeli squandered a match-point when serving for the match at 5-3, but recovered to break Machado in the final game.
The experienced pair of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram are favourites to complete a home victory in the doubles against Gastao Elias and Joao Sousa.
Suffering from a boycott from their top five singles players following the sacking of captain Andrei Pavel, Romania were always going to find it difficult in Amsterdam against the Netherlands, so it is no surprise that the home side are 2-0 ahead.
With considerable gaps between the opponents in the rankings, both singles rubbers were each completed in less than two hours. Thomas Schoorel beat Petru-Alexandru Luncanu 61 63 63, before Robin Haase defeated Andrei Daescu 63 63 64.
With no Horia Tecau, the doubles world No. 12 who has also boycotted the tie, Romania field Daescu and Florin Mergea for a rubber they must win against Jean-Julien Rojer and Igor Sijsling to keep their hopes alive.
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Captain Leon Smith (GBR) - 06/04/2012
Captain Johan van Herck (BEL) - 06/04/2012
Steve Darcis (BEL) - 06/04/2012