Great Britain avoided an early exit at the ATP Cup as Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury won the decisive doubles to clinch a comeback victory over Belgium.
With the tie locked at 1-1 and defeat ending Britain’s hopes of reaching the quarter-finals, Murray and Salisbury won 6-3 7-6 (9-7) against Belgian pair Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen.
Dan Evans kept the British bid alive by beating world number 11 David Goffin.
That came after Cameron Norrie lost in two sets to veteran Steve Darcis.
After Britain lost to Bulgaria in their opening tie on Friday, the team would have been eliminated from the inaugural 24-nation tournament if Murray and Salisbury lost their rubber against Gille and Vliegen.
Norrie’s defeat left them facing an uphill task, but British number one Evans’ impressive 6-4 6-4 victory – backed up by Murray and Salisbury – means they go into Tuesday’s final round-robin tie against Moldova with a chance of reaching the knockout phase in Australia.
The ATP Cup features six groups of four teams, who each play three round-robin ties in an event played across three Australian cities, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. The six group winners, plus the best two runners-up, will progress to the quarter-finals.
Britain reached the last four at November’s Davis Cup finals in Madrid, a similar World Cup-style team event which many believe should combine with the ATP Cup, where Murray and his regular doubles partner Neal Skupski won two decisive matches before losing to a Rafael Nadal-inspired Spain in the semi-finals.
But with teams selected by ATP ranking, seven-time Grand Slam doubles champion Murray has instead been teamed up with 27-year-old Salisbury.
The pair lost their first outing together – missing two match points in a tense three-set defeat by Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov and Alexandar Lazarov ending at 2:47am local time – but came under little pressure from the Belgian pair on Sunday.
“Cam didn’t play his best match and the chips were down but Evo came out and played a great match from start to finish,” Murray said.
“For us we ballsed up a bit the other night and we wanted to put in a strong performance to make up for losing that match.
“We’re happy to get through and stay alive in the tournament.”
Evans hauls Britain back into the tie after stunning win
A victory for 24-year-old Norrie against Belgium player-captain Darcis, 35, in the opening match of Sunday’s evening session would have given Tim Henman’s team a strong platform from which to build on in the tie.
However, he was outclassed by an inspired Darcis – who is set to retire after the upcoming Australian Open – and saw his serve broken twice in each set to lose 6-3 6-4 in one hour and 12 minutes.
Norrie’s defeat put the onus on 29-year-old Evans, who has the game but not always the consistency to match the world’s best players.
But he played confidently and cleanly against Goffin, disrupting the Belgian’s rhythm, to record one of the most impressive victories of his career.
Evans showed his intent by decisively breaking his opponent’s serve in the opening game, and then followed that up with a double break at the start of the second set, which put him into a commanding 3-0 lead.
Goffin responded valiantly in the latter stages as he looked to avoid defeat, claiming one break back in the sixth game and threatening another in what proved to be the final game of the match.
Evans was unable to convert four match points but showed his mental strength by taking his fifth when Goffin dragged a forehand return wide.
“It was real tough out there,” said Evans. “We said that he would come at me when it was tight – he’s a world-class player. His quality started to show near the end.”
The Briton screamed with delight as he leapt in the air in celebration and slapped hands with his team captain Henman, who did an impressive job of ensuring his player remained focused and stuck to the gameplan.
“He did that throughout a long career and there’s no-one better to give me a gameplan,” Evans added.
“Everybody knows my game is similar to Tim’s game. It’s great he came out and did this job for us.”
What else happened on day three?
Australia became the first nation to seal their spot in the quarter-finals after winning Group F.
Without Nick Kyrgios because of a back injury, the hosts won 3-0 against Davis Cup finalists Canada before Germany’s 2-1 victory against Greece clinched top spot for Lleyton Hewitt’s team.
That tie saw Greece’s ATP Tour Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Alexander Zverev in the first match of the tournament contested by two top-10 players.
In the end it was a one-sided match as Tsitsipas brushed aside the German, who had a number of unsavoury rows with his father – and coach – Alexander senior as he slid towards a dismal 6-4 6-1 defeat.
Despite that, Germany avoided elimination on Sunday when French Open champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies fought off six match points to beat Tsitsipas and Michail Pervolarakis in a thrilling 3-6 6-3 17-15 win.
Russia are close to joining Australia in the last eight after beating the United States to earn their second Group D win.
World number four Daniil Medvedev eased to a 6-3 6-1 win over John Isner, giving the Russians an unassailable 2-0 lead in the best-of-three tie after team-mate Karen Khachanov beat Taylor Fritz 3-6 7-5 6-1.
Norway, who lost 2-1 to Italy, could still stop Russia progressing when they meet in Tuesday’s final round of matches.
|Sunday’s ATP Cup results|
|Brisbane (Group F)||Perth (Group D)||Sydney (Group C)|
|Day session:||Canada 0-3 Australia||Italy 2-1 Norway||Bulgaria 2-1 Moldova|
|Night session:||Germany 2-1 Greece||Russia 2-1 United States||Great Britain 2-1 Belgium|