Great Britain defeated Australia 2-1 to begin its quest to advance to the Davis Cup Finals elimination round. Jack Draper, making his singles debut, and Dan Evans both won their matches.
Draper defeated Thanasi Kokkinakis in the first of a best-of-three tie, winning 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 7-6 (7-4) in the process.
The world’s No. 12 Alex de Minaur was defeated by Evans in the second singles match on Wednesday by scores of 6-1, 2-6, and 6-4.
Later, Evans and Neal Skupski suffered a doubles defeat of 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.
The doubles loss to Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell, despite the fact that Britain had already won the match, could still be significant later on in the week when it comes to securing qualifying.
The group stage competition is taking place at Manchester’s AO Arena, featuring four nations: Britain, Australia, France, and Switzerland.
The top two nations advance to the knockout stage, sometimes known as the “Final Eight,” which takes place in Malaga in November after they play each other once in a round-robin format.
On Friday, Britain takes on Switzerland; on Sunday, it takes on France in the tournament’s championship match.
After dominating the Swiss on Tuesday in the opening round, France currently leads the group after winning all three games.
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Everything you need to know about the preliminary round of the Davis Cup Final
Draper and Evans pay back the trust
Despite having a wide range of alternatives, British captain Leon Smith surprised several by selecting Draper and Evans over Cameron Norrie and Andy Murray for his two singles players.
The 28-year-old Norrie, who is still the best-ranked player in the country, has struggled to maintain the high standards that propelled him into the top 10 in the world last year.
Murray, 36, a former world number one, has had a successful year in which he made his first return to the top 40 rankings after undergoing hip surgery to save his career in 2019.
He admitted in New York that he did not “deserve” to play ahead of Draper after suffering another early Grand Slam elimination at the US Open.
Smith also came to the conclusion that this was the case and chose current form over previous pedigree.
The decision paid off as Draper and Evans secured a British triumph over an Australian team that placed second in the championship the previous year.
“I’m playing for my country and had to put everything out on the line – usually I’m playing for myself,” said Draper, who achieved a career-high ranking of 38th in January before his season was completely destroyed by injury.
“There is no better option. It was a true struggle, and I’m grateful to be playing my first Davis Cup match in the UK.
“I’m so grateful Leon put me out here and trusted me.”
hosts in Manchester get off to a fast start
Since the iconic Davis Cup was revamped in 2019 and home-and-away matches were eliminated, the format and the atmospheres it produced have come under fire.
But Britain, one of the four hosts in the knockout round, had the advantage of playing in front of home supporters and made excellent use of a fervent 9,500 audience.
Draper and Evans benefited greatly from the enthusiasm generated by Manchester hosting a match for the first time since 1994.
Draper has long been regarded as the star of the British men’s game, and his performance at the US Open, where he only had a few weeks to prepare due to a shoulder injury that sidelined him for three months, proved why.
The 74th-ranked Kokkinakis, who won a close opening set in which serve predominated, was thrown at him right away.
Draper, though, became more adept at the game, continuing to serve well and creating more issues with his improved returning.
The Briton’s two breaks forced a decider, where his serve was unaffected until Kokkinakis broke for a 5-4 victory.
However, as he served to end the match, the Australian lost his composure. It allowed Draper to equal the score before he battled back from 4-2 down in the tie-break to end the dramatic contest.
Kokkinakis claimed, “I let my anxiety get the best of me. He didn’t act erratically on those points, but I did serve out a little too passive and overly anxious.
Credit to him, he forced me to participate, but I didn’t succeed.
After demonstrating that he had regained his confidence on the North American hard-court swing, Evans successfully played his way onto the team.
The 33-year-old earned the finest title of his career in Washington after a difficult season in which he had struggled to win matches, and he advanced to the third round of the US Open.
There, he challenged Carlos Alcaraz, the reigning Spanish champion, in a thrilling match before losing in four sets.
Another indication that Evans was getting back to his best was his quick start versus De Minaur, as well as the way he finished the match to earn his best Davis Cup ranking.
However, Evans, the No. 2 player in Britain, had only 30 minutes to recover from his singles victory before he and Wimbledon winner Skupksi faced Purcell and Ebden in the doubles.
After playing doubles together in 2021, the British team connected well and narrowly lost the opening set after forcing a tie-break.
However, Ebden and Purcell, the 2022 Wimbledon champions (Ebden and Rohan Bopanna were runners-up at the US Open two days prior), required just one break of serve in the second set to win the match.
Davis Cup roundup: victories for Canada and the Czech Republic
Although Spain won the Davis Cup in 2019, they had a rough start at home, losing to the Czech Republic in both of their singles matches in Group C, which were played in Valencia.
world ranking 119 Before Jiri Lehecka defeated Bernabe Zapata Miralles, Tomas Machac defeated him 6-4, 6-4. Fokina, Alejandro Davidovich 7-6 (7-5) 7-5.
Bologna, Italy is the site of the Group A matches, and the home crowd witnessed their nation’s defeat to Canada.
The Canadians Alexis Galarneau and Gabriel Diallo defeated Lorenzo Sonego and Lorenzo Musetti in straight sets, respectively.
The 11th-ranked American, Frances Tiafoe, lost an unexpected match in Group D against the 77th-ranked Croatian, Borna Gojo.
Gojo triumphed 6-4 7-6 (8-6) following American Mackenzie McDonald’s earlier 6-4 6-2 victory over Dino Prizmic, which gave the United States the lead.
In the decisive doubles match, Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek defeated Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (3-7) 6-2. Ram previously won the men’s doubles title at the US Open with Britain’s Joe Salisbury.