Mayer proves to be wor­thy deputy for Del Potro as Or­sanic calls GB’s bluff

The Herald - Herald Sport - - DAVIS CUP - STE­WART FISHER

UAN Martin who? The Mur­ray broth­ers are busy rewrit­ing the Scot­tish sport­ing stereo­type but for Birm­ing­ham’s finest, Dan Evans, there was a taste yes­ter­day of what is known in these parts as glo­ri­ous fail­ure.

It was Leonardo Mayer who won the bat­tle of the su­per subs by a 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 score­line to end Bri­tain’s hopes of re­peat­ing last year’s vic­tory in this com­pe­ti­tion and leave Ar­gentina with pre­ten­sions of their first ti­tle.

The most un­likely come­back this side of Ben Ainslie in the Amer­i­cas Cup or the Mir­a­cle of Me­d­i­nah in the Ry­der Cup had seemed a re­al­is­tic pos­si­bil­ity as Evans bounded on court in place of the ad­ver­tised Kyle Ed­mund to con­test the cli­max of this sus­pense­filled Davis Cup semi-fi­nal at the Emi­rates Arena.

By the stats at least, the Brum­mie was a mar­ginal favourite go­ing in here. He was ranked No.53, com­pared to Mayer at 114, and did at least have some form in these fifth rub­bers, hav­ing won twice in this po­si­tion, in­clud­ing a big win against Evgeny Don­skoy to com­plete a re­mark­able re­cov­ery from a 2-0 first-day deficit against Rus­sia back in Coven­try in 2013. While that was in fact Evans’ last sin­gles win in this com­pe­ti­tion, he was in de­cent nick, hav­ing pushed even­tual US Open win­ner Stan Wawrinka as hard as any­one at Flush­ing Mead­ows ear­lier this month.

While eye­brows were raised when Juan Martin del Potro’s name wasn’t called by Ar­gentina cap­tain Daniel Or­sanic, it was worth not­ing that Mayer too was a man of sub­stance and those crafty Ar­gen­tines had been plot­ting to play him from pretty much the mo­ment Del Potro dragged his weary frame off court against Andy Mur­ray on Fri­day night.

Outwith the world’s top 100 or not, the 29-year-old Mayer had been ranked as high as No.21 last June, and had qui­etly won his last nine sin­gles rub­bers in this com­pe­ti­tion. While this year hasn’t panned out ex­actly as he had in­tended, Mayer had won a Chal­lenger event in Italy only last month and had the ben­e­fit of play­ing him­self into form in the dou­bles against the Mur­ray broth­ers.

At first, ev­ery­thing was go­ing to Great Bri­tain’s plan. Evans had 30-30 on the Mayer serve in that very first game then had the break of serve, the Ar­gen­tine ap­pear­ing ill at ease in his first ex­pe­ri­ence of a de­cid­ing rub­ber.

The Emi­rates crowd sensed the come­back was on as Evans took that first set 6-4.

But, just as Mayer’s serve and fore­hand had heated up dur­ing Sat­ur­day’s dou­bles rub­ber, so it did here too. For a while ev­ery sin­gle first serve he struck was on the money, and his sec­ond serves even bet­ter.

He won 85 per cent of first serve points in to­tal, and 97 per cent on sec­ond. Just four points were dropped on serve through­out the sec­ond set, and four again in the third, while in­roads were be­ing made into ev­ery Evans ser­vice game. The Ar­gen­tine’s fore­hand to Evans’ back­hand was in­vari­ably a win­ning com­bi­na­tion and soon the Brum­mie, a re­formed bad boy bear­ing a tattoo with an Os­car Wilde quotation “Ev­ery saint has a past, ev­ery sin­ner has a fu­ture”, was won­der­ing what the fu­ture held for him here.

He flung his racket away in dis­gust as he trudged off for a toi­let break to com­pose him­self for the chal­lenge of win­ning this one the hard way.

There was the small be­gin­nings of a mo­men­tum swing at the start of that fourth set, the watch­ing Andy Mur­ray risk­ing his thigh in­jury as he climbed off his seat to mark Evans sav­ing mul­ti­ple break points for a big hold, but even tech­nol­ogy wasn’t on Bri­tain’s side yes­ter­day.

Hawk-Eye was mal­func­tion­ing when a ridicu­lous tweener lob from Evans was called nar­rowly out, mean­ing the orig­i­nal call stood.

One last Bri­tish back­hand into the net handed Mayer the ser­vice break he re­quired, be­fore a glee­ful vol­ley into the open court on match point gave Ar­gentina a de­served vic­tory. They broke into an im­promptu mass huddle.

“I had a few chances to get into the match but af­ter the first set I was never in the match,” ad­mit­ted Evans, hav­ing lost his first de­cid­ing rub­ber since Lithua­nia back in 2010. I felt a lot of pres­sure on my serve and he served un­be­liev­ably. Get­ting the ball back into the court was tough and when I did he played pretty well from the back. I thought he was ag­gres­sive and took a lot of time away from me.”

“We sort of knew, sort of didn’t,” was his take on his op­po­nent. “We had an idea but I think they played it pretty well by warm­ing every­body up. That’s Davis Cup isn’t it? It’s a good way of keep­ing your cards close to your chest.”

Hid­den some­where at the bot­tom of that huddle was the form of Leonardo Mayer. “Af­ter the tough years I have had, it was an amaz­ing match for me and I was de­lighted when I got the call to be part of the team for the Davis Cup,” he said.

Or­sanic, the cap­tain, added: “Leo’s match was some­thing we be­lieved could hap­pen, but I think it was a great ef­fort from his part af­ter play­ing a lit­tle ner­vous in the first set. He came out with his best ten­nis, the ten­nis we used to see, the ten­nis that made him win a lot of Davis Cup matches. That’s why we be­lieved in him.”

Pic­ture: Bill Mur­ray/SNS

FULL FORCE: Mayer’s fore­hand in­vari­ably found its way on to Evans’ back­hand and the Bri­tish man had no an­swer for his South Amer­i­can op­po­nent.

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