Davis Cup finals 2019: Great Britain & Netherlands level at 1-1

BBC News

Andy Murray
Andy Murray recorded his 40th Davis Cup victory before Dan Evans lost Great Britain’s second singles rubber
2019 Davis Cup finals
Venue: Caja Magica, Madrid Dates: 18-24 November
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from Wednesday, 20 November; Live text coverage on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app. Click here for Live Guide.

Great Britain’s opening tie at the Davis Cup finals will go down to a pivotal doubles rubber after Dan Evans lost to Dutchman Robin Haase in Madrid.

British number one Evans looked on course for a one-sided win before Haase fought back to win 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.

Haase levelled the tie after Andy Murray said he “didn’t deserve” to beat world number 179 Tallon Griekspoor.

Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski are set to play in the deciding doubles later on Wednesday.

If they beat Dutch pair Wesley Koolhof and Jean-Julien Rojer, Britain’s second round-robin tie against Kazakhstan on Thursday will determine who reaches the quarter-finals as group winners.

Defeat for Murray and Skupski would seriously damage Britain’s hopes of progressing to the knockout stage and mean they would have to beat the Kazakhs simply to keep alive their hopes.

A potentially complex scenario looked set to be redundant when 29-year-old Evans raced ahead against Haase and served for the match as he aimed to give Britain an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-rubber tie.

Evans dominated 32-year-old Haase, once ranked 33rd in the world but now outside the top 150, in a one-sided first set before the powerful Dutchman cut out the errors and began to land more heavy groundstrokes which rocked the Briton.

Evans, ranked 42nd, fought off six break points in the second game of the second set, reasserting his authority to go another break up and serve for the match at 5-4.

However, a nervous game allowed Haase to survive and then go on to take the second set in a tie-break where Evans also paid the price for some edgy service points while a mini-break up.

From that point Haase looked rejuvenated, finding his spots with some blistering winners in the final set and going on to clinch victory in two hours and 23 minutes on his third match point.

Earlier, Murray survived a scare against Griekspoor to win 6-7 (7-9) 6-4 7-6 (7-5) in a thrilling group opener.

“I’m obviously relieved just now,” the Scot said. “I fought extremely hard but he dictated a lot of the points.”

Eighteen nations are contesting a football-style tournament for the first time to determine the Davis Cup champions, with the winners of the six groups and the two best-placed runners-up reaching the quarter-finals.

Murray finds Griekspoor’s hitting hard to handle

Former world number one Murray has not played a competitive match since winning the European Open title in Antwerp more than a month ago and he appeared to struggle physically at times against Griekspoor.

Murray revealed before the tournament he was at the heaviest weight of his career as he took a couple of weeks off to spend with his newborn son, joking with the media in Spain on Tuesday that he still needed to shift “the last couple of kilos”.

While that may not have been the contributing factor for a sluggish first-set performance, there was a lack of match sharpness as he found the big-hitting Griekspoor hard to handle.

The 23-year-old Dutchman may have only won two ATP Tour matches in his career but they came against three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka and Russian world number 17 Karen Khachanov, illustrating his capability of causing problems for the very best.

Eleven aces and some impressive first-serve statistics in the mid-80s rocked Murray in the first set, before the Scot showed signs of improvement in the second – although far from his best – to level the match.

Twice Murray looked beaten in the final set, trailing 4-1 and again by the same scoreline in the tie-break, only to dig deep into his reserves to fight back.

A blocked forehand from deep behind the baseline, with Murray almost standing next to the line judge, was almost beyond belief and helped him level at 4-4 to ultimately swing the match back in his favour.

Although Griekspoor won the next point, the momentum remained with Murray who sealed a memorable win when the Dutchman sliced into the net.

Murray pointed to his heart as he celebrated, the gesture signifying the resilience which has helped him win the sport’s biggest prizes and resurrect a career which even he thought was over after “life-changing” hip surgery in January.

“I fought, put every ball in and had to find a way to win. That’s what I did,” Murray said.

Brilliant atmosphere & thrilling finale

Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique has overseen the transformation of the 119-year-old competition into the season-ending finals, which has been met with fierce criticism from some and doubts about the atmosphere such a format would create.

While Spain’s opening match on Tuesday night was unsurprisingly watched by a partisan and full crowd at the Caja Magica, some matches have struggled to attend spectators.

Britain’s opening tie against the Dutch was not expected to be one and so it proved as about 1,000 Union Jack-clad fans created a boisterous atmosphere on a 2,500-capacity third show court which was about three-quarters full by most estimates.

The crowd was given plenty of entertainment by Murray and Griekspoor in a gripping match full of ebbs and flows, a final-set tie-break providing a thrilling finale which eventually separated the pair.

Supporters from both nations were left standing on their feet and roaring their player towards victory in the tie-break, with Murray sealing the type of win he has earned throughout his illustrious career after two hours and 51 minutes.

“The atmosphere was one of the things players were worried about in a neutral venue but both sets of fans were fantastic,” Murray said.

The new Davis Cup format

Eighteen nations are split into six groups of three, with the group winners and two best-placed runners-up progressing to the quarter-finals.

The two semi-finals will be played on Saturday, 23 November with the two winners going through to the final on Sunday, 24 November.

The six groups
Group A: France, Serbia, JapanGroup B: Croatia, Spain, Russia
Group C: Argentina, Germany, ChileGroup D: Belgium, Australia, Colombia
Group E: Great Britain, Kazakhstan, NetherlandsGroup F: United States, Italy, Canada
Which of the world’s top 20 are playing?
Rafael Nadal (Spain) [1]Fabio Fognini (Italy) [12]
Novak Djokovic (Serbia) [2]Diego Schwartzman (Argentina) [14]
Matteo Berrettini (Italy) [8]Denis Shapovalov (Canada) [15]
Roberto Bautista Agut (Spain) [9]Karen Khachanov (Russia) [17]
Gael Monfils (France) [10]Alex de Minaur (Australia) [18]
David Goffin (Belgium) [11]

Schedule – who plays when?

Group stage: Monday, 18 November – Thursday, 21 November

Quarter-finals: Thursday, 21 November – Friday, 22 November

Semi-finals: Saturday, 23 November

Final: Sunday, 24 November