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10 February 2012

Europe/Africa Zone Group I: Friday


MATCH REPORT

By 

  • Stuart Fraser

Photo: Srdjan StevanovicLukas Lacko (SVK)

GLASGOW, GREAT BRITAIN: Great Britain is locked at 1-1 with Slovak Republic after the opening day of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Europe/Africa Zone Group I first-round tie in Glasgow.

World No.276 Dan Evans – who came into the British team as a replacement for Andy Murray – claimed the finest victory of his career with a shock 63 75 75 victory against world No. 65 Lukas Lacko.

After four consecutive losses in the Davis Cup, this was Evans’s first victory in the competition and the 21-year-old said he was comfortable this time in a match where he felt less pressure against a higher-ranked opponent.

“In the last ties, I felt pretty small on the court” said Evans.  “But at the start when we were stood to go out, I felt like I could hold my own. 

“Even though he was ranked 65 in the world, I felt confident walking out.  I had a lot of fun.  That is what I was told to do - just go out, have some fun and play my game.

Slovak No. 2 Martin Klizan, ranked 120, then levelled the tie with a 62 46 64 76(3) win over James Ward, ranked 158.  The Brit suffered a nightmare trip to the remote Russian city of Kazan last week where he was forced to pull out of a Challenger event after the airline lost his bags, and the effects of that showed in a match where he made a number of unforced errors.

Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins tomorrow face Michal Mertinak and Filip Polasek in a doubles rubber which Slovak captain Miloslav Mecir feels is a vitally important match in the context of the whole tie.

“It is a crucial point to win tomorrow,” said Mecir.  “It doesn’t have to be the deciding point but it will say a lot.  I think the chances are open and it could go either way.  I just cross my fingers for our guys that they manage to play in the best form and take the point.”

In Valenje, Slovenia is in a commanding position after day one with a 2-0 lead over Denmark.  The home side are hoping to reach next year’s World Group for the first time and are just one win away from a second-round tie against South Africa.

Denmark had surprisingly named 31-year-old Kristian Pless, the former world No. 65, as their No. 2 singles pick, despite the fact he had not played a professional match since 2009 and it showed at times in a 60 61 64 defeat by world No. 112 Grega Zemlja.

“I was surprised with the performance of Pless because he played some great points, but at the end I saw what it means not to play for three years at tour level,” said Zemlja who, in winning his 27th Davis Cup match, equalled the record of Marko Tkalec for winning the most matches for Slovenia in the competition. 

World No. 112 Blaz Kavcic then beat world No. 226 Frederik Nielsen 62 64 64 to give Aljaz Bedene and Janez Semrajc the chance to clinch the tie in tomorrow’s doubles against Nielsen and Thomas Kromaan.

“You cannot ask for more than a 2-0 lead after the first day,” said Slovenia captain Blaz Trupej.  “But nothing is over yet.”

Finland have suffered injury problems with three of their top four ranked-players ruled out of the opening day due to injury, so it was no surprise that the away side found themselves 2-0 down to Netherlands in s’Hertogenbosch.

The gulf in rankings showed in the first match as Robin Haase, ranked No. 54, beat Juho Paukku, the world No. 656 who was brought in yesterday as a late replacement for Henri Kontinen, 61 61 61 in just one hour and 23 minutes.

World No. 209 Thiemo de Bakker then beat Timo Nieminen, ranked 314, 61 75 63 to put the home side within touching distance of a second-round tie against Romania.

Finnish No. 1 Jarkko Nieminen and Harri Heliovaara both hope to return to action in tomorrow’s doubles against Jesse Huta Galung and Jean-Julien Rojer, who will be making his first appearance for Netherlands tomorrow since switching from Netherlands Antilles.

Captain Leon Smith (GBR) - 10/02/2012

Dan Evans (GBR) - 10/02/2012

Related content

Related ties

GBR Flag Great Britain v Slovak Republic SVK Flag 10-12 Feb 2012 View details

NED Flag Netherlands v Finland FIN Flag 10-12 Feb 2012 View details

SLO Flag Slovenia v Denmark DEN Flag 10-12 Feb 2012 View details

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