As is often the case unknown players and more especially youngsters, rise to the occasion to produce unexpected performances when playing for their country in the Davis Cup competition and Sunday, the day the quarter-final spots for this year’s event were settled, proved no exception.
We've been underdogs (in the past) and managed to get wins. The Czech team played well -- very young team. Machac turned into a top 20 player overnight! Leon Smith
Britain as favourites for a last eight slot, suddenly found themselves fighting to fulfil that objective in Innsbruk while the defending champions, Spain, playing in front of a home crowd in Madrid, were unable to follow suit later in the day.
Britain didn’t get off to a good start against the Czech Republic when Dan Evans was overwhelmed by the world No.143, Tomas Machac, a 21-year-old from Prague, 6-2 7-5 leaving the Brits to fight back to secure a second straight win and take top spot in Group C.
Fortunately, Cameron Norrie was able to come to the rescue to keep British interests alive for Joe Salisbury and Neal Skuspki to deliver the winning point in the deciding doubles.
Nonetheless Norrie, ranked 12, had to overcome a second-set blip to see off the 20-year-old from Boleslv, word ranked 164, Jiri Lehecka 6-1 2-6 6-1 before Salisbury and Skupski teamed up to beat Machac and the veteran Jiri Vesely 6-4 6-2.
“It’s great. Today was tough. A lot of people look at the rankings but it’s never like that,” British captain Leon Smith said on court after the 2-1 win.
“We’ve been underdogs (in the past) and managed to get wins. The Czech team played well — very young team. Machac turned into a top 20 player overnight!”
Britain will remain in Innsbruk to play their quarter final against Germany on Tuesday and the tie, like all their previous ones, will be behind closed doors as decreed by the Governments latest coronavirus restrictions.
Meanwhile in Madrid Russia knocked out the reigning champions Spain to set up a quarter-final against Sweden.
For the Russians, playing under the name of the Russian Tennis Federation because of the sanctions against Russian sport for doping, made a bad start to the tie when Feliciano Lopez – a very late replacement for the positive tested Carlos Alcaraz, originally selected in place of the injured Rafa Nadal – beat Andrey Rublev 2-6 6-3 6-4 in the opening singles rubber.
US Open champion Daniil Medvedev then stepped up to bring the tie level with a 6-2 7-6(3) win over Pablo Carreno Busta, leaving the doubles to decide the tie.
Aslan Karatsev and Rublev scraped through won 4-6 6-2 6-4 against Marcel Granollers and Lopez to secure the top spot in Group A and consign the Spanish team to spectating over the coming week.
Germany, Britain’s next opponents, backed up their shock victory over Novak Djokovic’s Serbia by fighting back to edge out hosts Austria and go through as Group F winners.
Serbia had to settle for second place but progressed into the last eight against Kazakhstan in Madrid on Wednesday as one of the best runners-up.
Dominik Koepfer lost 6-1 7-5 to Jurij Rodionov to put the Germans in trouble, but Jan-Lennard Struff levelled the tie by cruising past Dennis Novak 7-5 6-4.
Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz completed the job in the doubles, as they did against Djokovic and Serbia last Saturday, winning 6-3 6-4 against Oliver Marach and Philipp Oswald.
Croatia just needed to win one rubber against Hungary to wrap up first place in Group D and the 242nd-ranked Nino Serdarusic did just that in the opener against Fabian Marozsan in Turin.
His 6-4 6-4 success helped avoid a nervy finish to the tie for the two-time former champions, as Marin Cilic lost the second singles 4-6 7-5 6-4 to the impressive Hungarian youngster Zsombor Piros.
The Croats will be playing the Italians and a partisan crowd in Turin on Monday.
Kazakhstan moved into the knockout stage by downing 2019 runners-up Canada in Madrid.
Kazakhstan, winners over Sweden last Saturday, emerged victorious again thanks to singles wins for Mikhail Kukushkin and Alexander Bublik over Brayden Schnur and Vasek Pospisil respectively.