Great Britain beat France in thriller to reach Davis Cup quarter-finals | Davis Cup

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Under the immense pressure of a one‑match shootout, Great Britain defeated France 2-1 to advance from the Davis Cup group stage and qualify for thequarter-finals. After earlier wins against Australia and Switzerland, the team finished the week unbeaten and top of their group.

The tie was dictated by the sparkling form of Evans, who sealed the first point by recovering from a set down to defeat Arthur Fils 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 before Norrie was edged out 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-5 by Ugo Humbert.

Evans returned for the decisive doubles alongside Skupski and after trailing Nicolas Mahut and Édouard Roger-Vasselin by triple match-point deep in the final set on Evans’s serve, they somehow recovered to close out an astounding 1-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6) win.

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Great Britain now advance to the knockout stage, which takes place from 21-26 November in Málaga.

After a week of criticism about the format of the competition, with the ties between neutral nations attracting few spectators, this was an increasingly rare glimpse of the Davis Cup at its finest: two high‑quality teams battling before a massive, partisan crowd in Manchester’s first tie in 29 years. The 13,000 audience, a sell-out, is a British record Davis Cup crowd.

The Great Britain team celebrate qualifying for the Davis Cup quarter-finals in Malaga in November.
The Great Britain team celebrate qualifying for the Davis Cup quarter-finals in Malaga in November. Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images for LTA

One fascinating aspect of this format, though, is the unpredictability of team selections because of the final selections remaining open until an hour before play begins. In a demonstration of Great Britain’s depth, Smith changed his singles lineup three times in three days, this time opting for the highest‑ranked players on the team.

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Armed with his enormous serve and vicious, heavy forehand, Fils burst into the encounter playing free‑flowing and destructive attacking tennis as he established a set and break lead. But Evans drew upon all of his experience to claw his way back in by refusing to miss, conducting up the crowd and drawing errors from Fils with his slice. From 6-3, 3-1 down, he reeled off seven games to lead by a break before serving well to hold off a disgruntled Fils.

Afterwards, Evans said his affinity for Davis Cup goes back to his childhood when various ties held in Birmingham were his first experiences of seeing professional tennis live. “All of those ties were in Birmingham and that was one of my first introductions to tennis,” he said. “Obviously, Wimbledon, but that was nowhere near where I live. That was my first introduction. For me, that was the be all and end all, to play Davis Cup for your country, and it still is.”

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While Norrie was by far the highest‑ranked singles player in action, he has struggled with his form since Wimbledon and he entered the court having lost six of his past eight matches. It was reflected in his performance as Norrie fought well but was outplayed by Humbert, who struck 20 aces, in the decisive moments. The difference between them was one poor service game from Norrie at 5-6 in the third set, ending with a double fault on match point.

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“I guess it could have gone either way but he played better in the bigger moments and that’s why he won,” Norrie said.

Despite the significance of the final battle, Evans and Skupski struggled to find any rhythm in the opening set against a faultless French team. The pair dug deep in the second set, continually drawing on the raucous crowd as they narrowly survived the second set.

As the tension increased, it spilled out to the supporting benches. Evans had not been pleased with Fils’s handshake after their singles match and during the third set the pair exchanged words, with Evans signalling to the French team to be quiet.

Both teams took care of their service games well in the final set until Evans and Skupski struggled under the weight of scoreboard pressure, trailing 0-40 and triple match point before Evans served incredibly well to escape.

Skupski then saved another match point at 5-6 before they closed out an incredible comeback in the final‑set tiebreak.

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