With Andy Murray taking a well-deserved break away from professional tennis, Great Britain’s hopes rested on Dan Evans and Kyle Edmund to bring home the victory in Ottawa. The two British players have taken two very different paths to the Top 50 of the Men’s game, but are now enjoying some brilliant success at the highest level of the sport. Leading into the tie, Canada were also without Milos Raonic, which provided a great opportunity for the likes of Wimbledon junior champion Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil to perform for the Canadians.
The new British No.2 player in the world prepared for a Davis Cup match where he was considered the heavy favourite. This would have been a very different experience for the Birmingham-born Evans. The Brit always seems to put on great performances when he is the considerable underdog like he demonstrated against Marin Cilic and Bernard Tomic at the Australian Open a few weeks ago, but now he had to deliver with the world expecting a comfortable win. He certainly delivered that.
On top of that, Evans had to handle the responsibility of being the No.1 player for this particular tie, which was also a brand new situation for him to deal with and he had not won a Davis Cup match for over three years. There was a lot of pressure on Evans, which cannot be overlooked.
Evans broke the Shapovalov serve in the opening game and did not look back as he took the set 6-3. He faced a couple of break points early in the second set, but some majestic drop volleying aided the Brit in the most crucial of moments. Evans had to be delighted with the way he played as he seemed to have an answer for everything that the Canadian threw at him. The 17-year-old would then get broken through a delicious lob winner from Evans and he rolled on to victory in straight sets. It was a pleasing sight for British tennis to see Evans in this kind of mood as he silenced the onlooking Canadian crowd.
Vasek Pospisil defeats Kyle Edmund 6-4 6-1 7-6 (3)
Britain’s No.2 player did not have the same success in his respective match. He faced former Top 25 player Pospisil, who had disappeared off the tennis radar for a number of years, but found some semblance of form to level the tie for the Canadians.
Pospisil’s ranking had slipped dramatically after a poor 2016 season and now is ranked outside the World’s Top 125 at No.133 in the world, but many recognise and acknowledge that that ranking is not a true reflection of the tennis he is capable of on a good day. The fast-paced, zippy court seemed to work wonders for the Canadian’s game. He is a naturally aggressive player that likes to dominate with a big first serve followed by a destructive, dominant forehand wing, while Edmund likes a lot of time to be able to manoeuvre his opponent around the court with his brilliant forehand. The court was unforgiving. It punished Edmund’s movement and lack of balance when running to his forehand side and it was actually his stronger wing that broke down under the eye of Davis Cup captain Leon Smith.
Edmund did a lot of the chasing and could not find a way to direct traffic to the backhand of the Canadian. It was a day to forget for Edmund, but on Sunday he may be called upon to send Great Britain into another Davis Cup Quarter-Finals. That is the beauty of tennis. Even with the toughest of losses there is always next week or the next match to put things right and to continue to improve.
The one question mark looming over the heads of the Canadian Davis Cup team is just how badly hurt Vasek Pospisil is. He took a medical time out for a problem with his left knee in the middle of the first set, but Edmund could not really exploit the physical ailment of the Canadian. While Edmund and Evans will have a day of rest during the doubles rubber it is expected that Pospisil will play the doubles match tomorrow alongside the experienced Daniel Nestor. That could work to the advantage of Great Britain over the duration of the three days in Canada.
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