SYDNEY – AUSTRALIA – Great Britain lost to Bulgaria in their opening match at the 2020 ATP Cup. Cameron Norrie and Grigor Dimitrov won the singles rubbers, Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury squandered two match points in the decisive doubles match.
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In his first match of the season, Cameron Norrie struggled to defeat World No.432 Dimitar Kuzmanov. The Bulgarian, whose mother is the Fed Cup captain, won just a couple of games when they faced each other at a Futures event in 2014.
Norrie comfortably sealed the first set without giving his opponent a break-point opportunity. But the Bulgarian turned up the table in the second set as he immediately broke the British left-hander to move 2-0 ahead. That little lapse in concentration made the difference.
Norrie, who produced a pair of untimely double faults in that game, had almost no chances in return during the set. Kuzmanov played solidly, showing that everyone could beat every opponent in a team event. The Bulgarian held his nerve to force a decider, showing his competitive spirit partially due to his family. His grandmother, in fact, was a volleyball coach and his grandfather was one of the founders of tennis in Bulgaria.
As the pressure mounted, Kuzmanov began to produce too many unforced errors. Norrie, who won 69% of first-serve points and 74% of his return points in the decider, took the lead and cruised towards a two-hour victory.
In the most expected rubber on the Ken Rosewall Arena, Dimitrov defeated Dan Evansfor the third time in four meetings. The Bulgarian captain and leading player offered glimpses of scintillating tennis to blow the British No.1 singles player off the court in a three-set thriller.
The 2017 ATP Finals champion warmed up in a largely uninspiring first set. Evans, on the other hand, broke his serve three times on his way to a comfortable 6-2. Gradually, the Bulgarian started to crunch forehand winners and blistering backhands. Evans fought as hard as he could but, after breaking back to be on serve at 4-5, he struggled to match the opponent’s power from the baseline.
Gradually, Dimitrov used his flashy one-handed backhands to maintain the lead and simply overpowered the World No.42, who could do little to avoid the defeat.
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After a nomination change, captain Dimitrov returned to the court, and things got no better for the Brits.
Jamie Murrayand Joe Salisbury showed a solid effort but they failed to avoid a defeat against Grigor Dimitrov and Alexandar Lazarov in the decisive doubles rubber as Great Britain opened their campaign at the ATP Cup with a tough losing day at the office. The British duo wasted a 9-7 lead in the deciding tie-break, losing the last four points of a heavily contested clash.
On Sunday, at 17:30 local time in Sydney (06:30 GMT), Great Britain will meet Belgium now leading the group standings after a not so comfortable 3-0 win over Moldova.
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