What seemed a lost cause for Britain on Friday evening, after Chris Wilkinson and Jeremy Bates had lost the opening singles rubbers, was given hope yesterday when Bates teamed up with Mark Petchey to win the doubles. Their victory against Andros Lanyi and Lazlo Markovits, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, at the very least ensured that the visitors would not be faced with an unpalatable mixture of goulash and whitewash.
If Bates can maintain the confident form he showed yesterday and manage to defeat Josef Kroschko, the Hungarian No 1, the outcome will rest on the final rubber between Chris Wilkinson and the tall, powerful Sandor Noszaly. This is the first time the player from Southampton has contested live matches in a Davis Cup tie, and a triumph would be historic: no British team have won a tie from a 2-0 deficit.
There has been an air of unreality about the Euro/African Zone Group One match from the beginning. Played in a crumbling stadium on Margit Island, which is situated between Buda and Pest on the Danube, the tie has attracted little attention. Only half the 2,000 capacity expected turned up on Friday, and no more than 1,000 came yesterday, when the Hungarians had an opportunity to secure a victory which would enable them to play off for a place in the World Group.
Yesterday there was the rival attraction of a triathlon taking place in the surrounding parkland. While the competitors were not a problem for the tennis players, the carnival atmosphere created by continous pop music and a race commentator from the John Bromley school of broadcasting was a distraction both teams could have done without.
'Nice playing in a jazz concert, wasn't it?' Tony Pickard, the British captain, said. Bates appeared not to mind. 'I only noticed when I heard them playing one of my favourite ZZ Top songs,' the British No 1 said.
Pickard originally selected Chris Bailey to partner Bates in the doubles, though this proved to be little more than a 25th birthday gesture to the Norfolk player when the teams were first announced on Thursday. Pickard exercised the prerogative to change his mind an hour before yesterday's match.
Petchey, a 22-year-old from Essex, had not previously played doubles in the Davis Cup, but he proved to be a fine choice on the day, albeit against opponents who were as ineffectual as the score suggests. 'It doesn't matter what the opposition is,' Pickard said, 'you've got to beat them, and they did that very well indeed.'
Lanyi and Markovots, who are on tennis scholarships at colleges in California, appeared wearing Jim Courier outfits in the style and colours of the Arsenal home strip and were immediately forced into a defensive game.
Only once did Bates and Petchey have a break point against their names. That was in the fifth game of the opening set, with Petchey serving. Lanyi squandered it by belting a forehand volley over the baseline, and Britain held to take a 4-1 lead, having broken Markovits in the previous game.
Lanyi was broken in the opening game of the second set and again in the fifth game, at which point the threat of rain seemed the only danger to a smooth British win. The clouds passed, and when Markovits lost his serve in the third game of the third set, Bates and Petchey maintained the presssure to win in an hour and 50 minutes, their punchy shots keeping time with the rap music next door.
DAVIS CUP EURO-AFRICA ZONE Second round (Budapest) Hungary lead Great Britain 2-1: Doubles: J Bates and M Petchey (GB) bt A Lanyi and L Markovits (Hung) 6-3 6-2 6-4.