Playing without three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray and the country’s number one Kyle Edmund, it was fitting that Great Britain’s last ever Davis Cup tie featuring best-of-five set rubbers should open with two five set thrillers at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena.
It's been tough but everybody who supported me, who has been right behind me from the time I started back, I can only thank them. Dan Evans
In an emotional return to the team, Britain’s Dan Evans outlasted Uzbekistan’s World No.60 Denis Istomin 7-6, 4-6, 0-6, 6-4, 7-5 to give the home nation a 1-0 lead.
The 8,000 seat Emirates Arena was only around half-full, but those who were there managed to create a great atmosphere, and the two players responded with some fine tennis interspersed with many errors. Despite taking the first set on a tiebreak, Evans found himself behind after losing the third set to love. Encouraged by the raucous crowd, the British player turned the tables to close out the win after 4 hours and 7 minutes of rollercoaster action.
“It’s been tough but everybody who supported me, who has been right behind me from the time I started back, I can only thank them,” an emotional Evans said.
“Days like today don’t come around very often. Who knows, I may not get in the team next time, so I have to remember this and enjoy it.”
British number one Cameron Norrie, ranked No.70 in the world, followed Evans onto court for his Davis Cup home debut, cruising to a 6-0 first set against Uzbekistan’s No.2 Juarabek Karimov. The visiting player moved to a surprise 3-1 lead in the second set before Norrie recovered to take it at 7-5, but the real action was still to come. Had this been a best-of-three set match, Norrie would have been home and hosed. But ever since the first set bagel, Karimov had been getting better and better. Once he took the third set tiebreak there was little doubt he would go all the way. An injury time out at 5-2 in the fourth set temporarily halted his progress, but the young Uzbek was not to be denied, completing a fine win by 0-6, 5-7, 7-6, 6-2, 6-2 in 3 hours 38 minutes to put his country level going into day two.
A long day it might have been for the Glasgow crowd, but most will have gone home happy after nearly eight hours of gripping action.
With Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot in action in Saturday’s doubles, GB are still in the box seat – but there is now much less margin for error.