After what had actually been quite a competitive match between Kyle Edmund and Lucas Pouille, despite the straight sets scoreline, it was down to the British No. 1 string to try to level the match – a tough ask after last playing on clay in the Roland Garros qualifiers in 2014.
Despite the fact that ‘super-sub’ Jeremy Chardy was a late addition to the French team after Gilles Simon was added to the walking wounded list, the Frenchman was swift and sure as he thrashed through the first five games of the first set before Evans finally troubled the score-board.
In fact the unpredictability of Chardy gave the Brit a brief shaft of light as he broke the Frenchman, but the first set was wrapped up with a third break for the Frenchman.
There was much more of a fight in the second set, but Chardy broke the Brit to love for a 4-2 lead, never losing that advantage to go 2-0 up. That momentum stayed with him, breaking Evans at the start of the third leaving Saturday as a Hail-Mary pass for the Brits.
After the match, team captain Leon Smith told reporters: “There’s always a way back and you know it would be wrong of us to say ‘that’s us lost’ isn’t it. That’s not the mentality that we’ve built up over the years. You’ve got to try and fight for everything and hopefully Jamie & Dom can cause an upset tomorrow, so we can at least take it into the final day.
“Gives us a chance to fight again. So yeah, we’ll dust ourselves down and hopefully the guys can put on a great performance tomorrow.”
Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot stand at 2/2 as a pairing having lost their first two rubbers together against the Bryan Brothers, twice, before winning their last two encounters including in last year’s Davis Cup quarter-final in Serbia.
Murray has already grabbed hardware this year with regular partner Bruno Soares, to go along with two Grand Slams last year and finishing (albeit briefly) as the No. 1 pairing at the end of last year. But alongside Inglot things have taken a while to gell. Both are big servers with Inglot’s punchy forehand, and Murray’s versatility at the net.
Yet all the pairing has to be is functional against the French flair of Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut – neither are slouches in doubles, and as a pairing they won the title in Marseille this year so this could go down to the wire, over four of five sets.
You have to favour the Brits if it goes that far – Benneteau is on his way back after a injuries derailed his 2015 season and has still caused him issues this season. The prospect of five sets could be daunting for the tour veteran. Then again the pressure of carrying the hopes of GB’s Davis Cup dreams could be an equally heavy burden.
Murray did at least find himself in this situation in the semi-final against Argentina after Andy Murray suffered a surprise defeat to Juan Martin Del Potro in the opening rubber. Murray combined with his younger brother to pull off the win that at least kept them in it for another day.
Smith continued: “It’s a very difficult match. You’re playing against two players that are very accustomed to clay courts, but in Jamie and Dom we’ve got two guys that are playing well. They understand each other well now. Jamie obviously very experienced, has a great record in doubles.
“We’re underdogs again but it’s a match that they’ll create chances, They’ll definitely create chances. Yeah, [we’re] gonna need it.”
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