Bernard Tomic kept Australia’s hopes of reaching the Davis Cup final alive when he defeated Dan Evans 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (4), 6-4 to level their semi-final against Great Britain at 1-1 on Friday.
The pressure had been on the world number 23 after Andy Murray had given Great Britain the perfect start with a 6-3, 6-0, 6-3 demolition of Thanasi Kokkinakis on the hard-court of the Emirates Arena in Glasgow. However, Tomic survived a third set wobble to see off late call-up Evans -- ranked a lowly 300 in the world -- in an energy-sapping three-hour encounter to leave the tie delicately poised ahead of Saturday’s doubles rubber.
“It was very emotionally tough out there. The crowd and the atmosphere drains you every point you play,” Tomic said. “I was playing a player who was striking and feeling the ball very well. I was getting tired quickly after the third set so I’m happy I got it together in the end.”
With a place in the final against either Belgium or Argentina in November at stake, Tomic’s victory means the tie can’t be decided until Sunday’s reverse singles.
Great Britain have failed to beat Australia in their previous three meetings but hopes were high of a first final appearance since 1978 as Evans took to the court following Murray’s rout of Kokkinakis. Evans had been a surprise choice by captain Leon Smith ahead of regular James Ward.
But the gamble didn’t look like it would pay off early on as Tomic eased through the first set. Evans, who had defeated Tomic in their only other meeting in the 2013 US Open, was beginning to look out of his depth as he quickly fell 2-0 behind in the second set.
The Briton battled back with a stirring display to twice break Tomic to take the set to a tie break, where the Australian’s class shone through. Evans then needed a medical time-out for a leg injury and the 25-year-old initially toiled in the third set as Tomic took a 4-1 lead.
However, Evans broke as the Australian served for the match before completing his comeback by taking the third set on a tie break. Evans continued to cause his higher ranked rival problems in the fourth but, with the finishing line in sight, Tomic found some reserves to serve a love game to seal the match.
“It was very good out there. The crowd helped spur me on when I was down but that’s part of Davis Cup and having a home tie,” an exhausted Evans said. “I’m just a bit tired but I’ll be fine for Sunday.”
World number three Murray had helped Great Britain get off to a flying start with a comprehensive victory over Kokkinakis, taking under two hours to see off the challenge of the 19-year-old Australian. “It was a huge match and I’m glad I managed to put on a good performance,” Murray said.
“I started the match really well. I was hitting the ball cleanly and I didn’t give him any opportunities on my serve. Once I got the break in the middle of the first set I just continued to play better.”
It was the first meeting between the pair, who are regular practice partners, and it seemed Murray had learned the most from their training sessions. “I didn’t help my team very much there but he didn’t make it easy,” a dejected Kokkinakis said.
“I’ve practised with him a fair few times and I can say that’s the best he’s ever played against me by a mile.”
The ease of Murray’s victory means he could yet partner big brother Jamie in Saturday’s doubles rubber against Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Groth.