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Great Britain captain Leon Smith summed up a "tough day to swallow" as his team crashed out of the Davis Cup in the quarter-finals, after squandering endless tiebreak chances in a brutally tight loss to Germany.
As a team, Britain lost all three of the tiebreaks they played on Tuesday - all from leading positions and two with set points in hand - in a match where the finest of margins saw them lose 2-1. It kept them from progressing to Madrid for the packed crowds befitting of this team competition, and a chance of another semifinal appearance.
Despite Innsbrook being in lockdown, and the Pala Alpitour arena completely devoid of fans, the atmosphere was electric on Tuesday thanks to both teams raucously backing their doubles players in the deciding rubber. Never one to hold back, Dan Evans led the charge and bellowed his way through Neal Skupski and Joe Salisbury's rubber.
But, unlike against the Czech Republic on Sunday, the doubles pair could not dig Britain out of trouble. The only consolation will be that they fell to quality opponents in Kevin Krawietz and Tim Putz. All four on court are ranked in the top 20 for doubles, and that flair was on show in a tightly fought, high-level match which only saw them separated by two tense tiebreaks.
Skupski and Salisbury led the first one 6-4, with two set points, but allowed Germany to claw back. Krawietz even threw himself to the ground to scoop a drop shot over the net at one point, such was the urgency on both sides to draw first blood. Eventually Germany won the tiebreak 12-10 thanks to a sublime return lob from Putz, while the second brought even more missed opportunities for the Brits, who frittered away a 5-0 lead to eventually lose 7-6(10) 7-6(5).
"We were 5-0 up, we should win the tiebreak, simple as that," a deflated Salisbury, who this year made his first appearance at the Davis Cup, said. "They came up with some good shots but we lost seven points in a row - there’s no team in the world we should do that [against]."
"This could have gone either way," Smith added. "It wasn’t to be. They gave their best effort and sometimes it’s not enough. Germany deserved to go through."
It could well have been their final chance to play the Davis Cup in its current format, with various host cities and home nations, as controversial plans to stage the entire event in Abu Dhabi from next year are expected to be formally announced on Sunday. If that is the case, going out to empty stands will make this ending all the more disappointing for a team who won the competition in 2015 and reached the semi-finals in the last attempt in 2019.
It all had started so positively too. Ahead of his cheerleading, Evans cruised past 86th-ranked Peter Gojowczyk, who was a surprise last-minute replacement for Dominik Koepfer and playing in the Davis Cup for Germany for the first time in seven years.
But while Evans's 6-2, 6-1 victory lasted just 57 minutes, in which time shaky Gojowczyk managed to hit 28 unforced errors, a tired looking British No 1 Cameron Norrie lost his singles tie soon after to a tougher opponent in Jan-Lennard Struff. Despite holding two set points at 6-4 in the first set, he was eventually bettered 7-6, 3-6, 6-2.
It marked the end of his epic 75-match season on tour, with two titles under his belt and now ranked 12th in the world. But Norrie is not letting up in in the short off-season, revealing plans to have just one week's rest ahead of prepping for January's Australian Open. "Maybe after Australia, I'll take a bigger block and do pre-season then," he said.