Great Britain kept their hopes of a comeback against Belgium alive as Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins won the doubles rubber on day two of the Davis Cup Euro/Africa Zone Group I tie in Glasgow.
The experienced British pair were favourites against Ruben Bemelmans and David Goffin – the 21-year-old world No. 112 making his Davis Cup debut – but found the going tough early on as it was the visitors who took the opening set.
A tight second set was won by Fleming & Hutchins when they broke Bemelmans’ serve in the twelfth game, and it was the Brits who had the momentum from there, eventually winning 46 75 63 64 in three hours and seven minutes.
Fleming said: “They were playing very well. We didn’t really find our feet very quickly. We haven’t played many matches recently so we were maybe a little bit ring-rusty. We had the belief though that we could raise our performance and turn the match around which we did.”
Britain must now upset the odds by winning both reverse singles rubbers. Josh Goodall takes on Oliver Rochus and Dan Evans faces Steve Darcis – but it is a tough ask for the Brits given that both Belgian players are ranked well within the top 100.
British captain Leon Smith said: “We will hammer through some of the tactical and strategical stuff we looked through before. At the end of the day, though, first of all it is going to be up to Josh to go out there and play the match of his life.”
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South Africa take 2-1 lead into Sunday
South Africa will look to book a place in September’s World Group play-offs as they go into the final day in Johannesburg 2-1 up over Slovenia, after Raven Klaasen and Izak van der Merwe beat Blaz Kavcic & Grega Zemlja 67(5) 76(4) 61 64.
The South African pair got off to a great start by racing to a 5-2 lead in the opening set, before losing their way and Slovenia took full advantage, taking the first set in a tiebreak. Klaasen and Van der Merwe showed great mental strength, though, as they put their early disappointment behind them and regained the initiative.
Despite a wobble when they spurned four match points at 5-3 in the fourth set, they eventually clinched it. South Africa captain John-Laffnie de Jager said: “This win wasn't pretty but it was vital going into the final day. We are now 2-1 up and that is a platform for Izak to win his match on Sunday morning.”
Van der Merwe takes on Kavcic, in what should be a tight match with only 17 places separating them in the rankings. Ruan Roelofse will then take on Zemlja in a decider if required, and Slovenia No.1 Kavcic is confident that his side can overturn the deficit.
The 25-year-old said: “We have to be favourites in both singles tomorrow. Our rankings in each match give us the advantage but Davis Cup is a different ball game. But I really feel that Grega and I can pull it off for Slovenia”
Israel and Netherlands complete comfortable victories
Israel moved a step closer to returning to the World Group in Ramat Hasharon when Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram beat Gastao Elias and Jaoao Sousa 64 64 63 to take an unassailable 3-0 lead over Portugal.
The visitors kept up the pace with the experienced home favourites but it was Erlich and Ram who raised their level at the right moment to get the vital break in each set. Ram said: “It is a bonus as a player to represent your country and to be victorious. It is important for us to have come back again and win after the last defeat here [a 3-2 loss to Canada last September].”
Despite the loss, Portugal captain Pedro Cordeiro was pleased with the way his players performed. He said: “They made some mistakes today but I am sure that they gained experience and in a few years' time the result could be different.”
In Amsterdam, the Netherlands also booked their place in the World Group play-offs after an epic five-set doubles match against Romania lasting four hours and 31 minutes, Jean-Julien Rojer & Igor Sijsling beating Andrei Daescu & Florin Mergea 63 76(3) 67(30) 36 97 to clinch the tie 3-0.
It was an impressive performance from the understrength Romanian side, who were without doubles world No. 12 Horia Tecau due to a player boycott following the sacking of captain Andrei Pavel.
In tomorrow’s dead rubbers, Robin Haase is due to play Petru-Alexandru Luncanu and Thomas Schoorel faces Andrei Daescu, although the captains may decide to change their picks up to one hour before the start of play.
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Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins (GBR) - 07/04/2012