The pressure is for Great Britain to keep their Davis Cup hopes alive after British No. 3 Kyle Edmund dropped the first rubber to France’s Lucas Pouille, in as the French No. 1.
After nomination changes gave the Brits a glimmer of hope, they really needed the British No. 2 string to win both his matches. It certainly was a strong start by the Brit, and indeed it was a highly competitive first couple of sets, with some high risk shots and confident striking, which initially paid off for him. An early break against the Brit was met with stoic resistance and an immediate break back that showed that this beef was not for roasting, but it was not to last, as France made their decisive break late in the first set to take it 7-5.
Perhaps the late lapse was playing on the Brit’s mind as he immediately conceded a soft game to Pouille. Yet his fighting spirit saw him come from 2-4 down to level at 4-4 with a much needed break and hold, putting the Brits in the lead in the second set for the first time.
Heading into the TB, a double-fault handed Edmund the advantage but from 5-2 his foundations were rocked as he was broken twice. Despite saving a set point, he would give away the mini-break for the Frenchman to serve out the second set.
It is not as though Edmund had no chances – he could not put away two chances to break in the third set, and despite saving two break points on his own serve, he couldn’t hold off the third try by Pouille and from there the end was swift, delivering a body blow to the Brits.
Edmund was obviously annoyed that he had not capitalised in the second set, as he came into press while Dan Evans was struggling in the first set in his first match in clay since 2014.
He agreed it had been a competitive first two sets: “ It was obviously annoying. You want to be taking one of them. You gave it your best effort. It just wasn’t good enough today. And you want it to be good enough because that’s when it matters is today.
“[It is] easy to look back and say where I could have done better, and some points where I could’ve done better. Some better choices and better execution but when it counts, I just didn’t get it done today.”
Maybe it is a sign of the times when we start to look upon Edmund as a bit of a veteran of away Davis Cup ties. From his thrilling debut where he took Belgium’s finest, David Goffin all the way to five sets, and almost set GB on their way with a win, to the unadulterated joy of his holding the Andy Murray-less tie in Serbia on his own broad shoulders.
But with Evans now down two sets at the time of publishing, Britain could be looking at a quiet end of the year, where Davis Cup is concerned.
The Davis Cup quarter-final between France and Great Britain is taking place in Rouen, between 7-9 April.
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