Despite being down three match points and on the verge of a devastating loss in the final match of the week, Dan Evans and Neal Skupski did not back down. They persevered, fueled by the cheers of the crowd after each point, and miraculously bounced back to achieve one of their most significant victories to date.
Great Britain made a stunning comeback during the crucial doubles match to defeat France 2-1 and progress to the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup. They remained undefeated and topped their group after defeating both Australia and Switzerland earlier this week.
Their success thus far can be attributed to Evans’ enthusiasm and love for Davis Cup tennis. The 27th ranked player in the world has not only displayed impressive performance in his singles matches, but has also teamed up with Skupski for doubles. In a remarkable comeback, the 33-year-old secured Great Britain’s first point by defeating Arthur Fils 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 after losing the first set. Unfortunately, Cameron Norrie was narrowly defeated by Ugo Humbert in a close match of 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-5.
Evans came back for the crucial doubles match with Skupski. They were up against Mahut and Roger-Vasselin and found themselves at triple match point in the final set, with Evans serving. Miraculously, they managed to rally and secure a remarkable comeback victory with a score of 1-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6). As a result, Great Britain will move on to the Davis Cup “Final 8” round, which will be held in Málaga from November 21 to 26.
“It was nuts,” said Evans. “Singles is singles and I feel comfortable on the court but the doubles? It was chaos. I just kept saying to Neal: ‘We’ve got a chance, we’ve got a chance.’ Neal kept going, we both kept going.”
Following a week of negative feedback regarding the competition’s structure, particularly with regards to the matches between non-participating countries drawing minimal spectators, this was a special opportunity to witness the Davis Cup in all its glory. Two exceptional teams fought it out in front of a large and supportive crowd, providing a rare display of top-notch tennis. The match in Manchester, which marked the city’s first Davis Cup tie in 29 years, sold out with a record-breaking attendance of 13,000 in Great Britain.
The tie began with Evans’s first recovery as he suffered under Fils’ enormous serve and vicious, heavy forehand, trailing 6-3, 3-1 before drawing on the atmosphere as he neutralised the 19-year-old and switched the momentum. Despite him being the highest ranked singles player in action, Norrie’s difficult recent form was reflected in the decisive moments as a nervous final service game proved the difference between him and Humbert, the British No 1’s night ending with a double fault on match point.
During the final match, Evans and Skupski struggled to keep up and it seemed unlikely that they could make a comeback. However, they put up a strong fight and tensions rose as Evans and the opposing team exchanged words while chaos ensued.
During the game, team captain Leon Smith approached the DJ on the sidelines and requested that he enhance his music selection in order to maintain the crowd’s interest throughout the lengthy seven hours and 38 minutes of play.
“Can you believe we’re in Manchester and not once have we heard Oasis?” said Evans with a smile. “The DJ is trying to energize the crowd, but instead of using the music on his decks, he’s just flailing his arms. It’s ridiculous.”
In the last round, both teams successfully held their service games until Evans and Skupski faced difficulty due to the pressure of the scoreboard. They were trailing 0-40 with three match points. “We remained calm and focused on the next point, taking it one point at a time,” Skupski shared.
Evans showed exceptional serving skills as they went from being behind 0-40 to winning five consecutive points and avoiding defeat. Skupski also faced a fourth match point in their following service game, but he remained composed and held on. After a grueling three-hour match, they completed an impressive comeback in a tense final set tiebreak.
Evans expressed his joy and emotion about the day and the feeling was incredible. He also mentioned the importance of being with his teammates in the final and the disappointment of losing. Being at home for the final added to the intensity of the experience. Overall, he felt immensely proud of himself and his team.