Dan Evans once again played well above himself for Team GB in the Davis Cup but eventually lost the first rubber of the tie against Russia at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry today.
The inclusion in the team of Evans, ranked 325, had been a late minute decision by Aegon GB Captain Leon Smith, replacing original choice, 235th-ranked Jamie Baker.
The swap was made largely due to Evans’ heroics in last year’s tie against Slovakia when he beat Lukas Lacko and Martin Klizan, ranked 65 and 120 respectively in the world at the time.
Evans, who also lives near to the arena and knows the courts well, pushed Dmitry Tursunov, ranked 258 places higher, all the way finally losing 6-4, 6-7(5),6-4, 5-7, 6-4 in just over three hours and 56 minutes.
Birmingham-born Evans showed little signs of nerves, fighting back from an early Russian break, but he could not halt Tursunov pushing on to take the first set 6-4.
Evans was doing enough to give his captain and the crowd hope and in the second set he broke to lead 4-3 but when serving for the set, a double-fault helped Tursunov break back.
However the British number six overcame that disappointment, playing a strong tie-break to level the match at one set all.
The momentum of the match was swinging back and forth and Evans could not push on from the tie-break, starting the third set sloppily and losing it by a single break.
Another change of momentum, and indeed a change of top for Evans, came in the fourth set as he held on long enough to grab a late break from the tired-looking Russian to win the set 7-5, and set up the decider.
The battling continued right to the end of the marathon match, with Evans dropping serve immediately but trading breaks with Tursunov to keep the rubber alive.
Eventually the experience of Tursunov prevailed to take the set 6-4 and with it the rubber, though Evans can be extremely proud of his display and Smith vindicated in his decision.
Instead of questions about Evans’ selection and performance, the post match press revolved around why he could not repeat these performances on the tour.
“I don’t train hard enough and I don’t work hard enough day in day out,” Evans said.
“It’s not that I don’t want to do it, I obviously want to do it, but for whatever reasons, there are distractions.”
“Hopefully now, I’ve been working pretty hard since the start of the year.”
Tursunov was full of praise for Evans, without going so far to admit he may have underestimated his opponent.
“I was really very impressed with his returning,” the Russian said.
“At times he definitely played made some shots I wasn’t expecting him to, and there were also a few shots that also a few opportunities I didn’t capitalise on.”
Improving his ranking maybe the long-term goal of Evans, but the first test will be the reverse rubbers on Sunday.
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