GLASGOW, GREAT BRITAIN: Great Britain are through to the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Europe/Africa Zone Group I second round after Dan Evans clinched victory in the deciding fifth rubber in Glasgow.
Britain had a 2-1 lead over Slovak Republic going into the final day, but were still underdogs with James Ward and Evans facing tough matches against their higher-ranked opponents in Lukas Lacko and Martin Klizan.
World No. 158 Ward battled hard in the early stages of his match against Lacko, ranked No. 65, but lost a tight first-set tiebreak before going down 76(9) 61 63 in two hours.
This took it to a deciding rubber - a position Evans had been in his two previous Davis Cup ties, losing both. However, he was clearly determined from the start to make it third time lucky as he came storming out the blocks to take the first two sets in just one hour.
Klizan, ranked No. 120, fought back well and levelled the match to take it into a deciding set, where world No. 276 Evans stepped up again, breaking with a stunning forehand down-the-line winner in the third game, before Klizan double-faulted on match-point down to lose 61 61 46 36 63 to Evans in two hours and 53 minutes.
“I am really pleased with how the whole week went,” said Evans, the 21-year-old from Birmingham. “I have never been on a team which has been as loud and vocal as that. Everybody did a pretty good job of trying to get the player on court through the match and that helped a lot.”
Britain will return to the Braehead Arena in Glasgow for a second round match on 6-8 April against Belgium. “We have got a really difficult tie next time round,” said British captain Leon Smith, who has won all of his five ties in charge since taking over from John Lloyd in 2010.
“Belgium is a very strong nation and has been for a long time. They have still got good Top 100 players who will be very difficult to beat. It will be another tough ask but one we will prepare really hard for.”
Netherlands picked up two victories in dead singles rubbers on the final day in s’Hertogenbosch to complete a 5-0 victory over a Finland side that had been hit by several injury blows during the weekend.
Three of Finland’s top four players – Jarkko Nieminen, Harri Heliovaara and Henri Kontinen – had all been forced out of the opening day and that meant it was always going to be a tough ask for the away side.
Robin Haase was rested and replaced by Jesse Huta Galung, ranked No. 237, who beat world No. 212 Harri Heliovaara 62 64, before world No. 209 Thiemo de Bakker rounded off the perfect weekend for the home side with a 36 63 62 victory against Juho Paukku, ranked No. 656.
Next up for Netherlands is a home tie in April against Romania and Dutch captain Jan Siemerink admitted that it will likely be a tougher prospect. “We did not play against a very strong Finland,” admitted Siemerink.
“To reach the World Group, our team needs to raise its level. Romania has a world class doubles player with Horia Tecau. And in general, as a team Romania has more depth than Finland.”
In Valenje, Slovenia secured a 5-0 whitewash against Denmark and can now look forward to an away trip to South Africa in the second round.
After playing both singles and doubles in the first two days, Grega Zemlja and Blaz Kavcic were both rested for the dead singles rubbers.
Aljaz Bedene, ranked No. 168, beat the unranked Thomas Kromann 63 36 64. World No. 685 Janez Semrajc then completed a successful weekend for the home side with a 76(5) 63 win over the former world No. 65 Kristian Pless, who is now unranked.
Captain Leon Smith (GBR) - 12/02/2012
Dan Evans (GBR) - 12/02/2012