Britain moved within one win of an improbable Davis Cup victory over Slovakia as Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins put the hosts into a 2-1 lead after the second day of their Europe Africa Zone Group One tie at the Braehead Arena in Glasgow yesterday.
A 6-3 7-6 0-6 6-3 triumph for Fleming and Hutchins over Filip Polasek and Michal Mertinak means Britain will entertain Belgium in the second round in April unless both James Ward and Dan Evans lose their reverse singles matches today. Ward is first up against Lukas Lacko before Evans takes on Martin Klizan.
Although Lacko was beaten in straight sets by Evans on Friday, it is hard to believe the visiting team's best player will perform as poorly again. The world No 68 is ranked 93 places higher than Ward – who lost in four sets to Klizan – and has been in the best form of his life in recent weeks, having reached the third round of the Australian Open and his first tour final in Zagreb.
If Ward loses, Evans will play a deciding fifth rubber for the third time in his short career. The 21-year-old from Birmingham lost on both previous occasions, at home to Poland in 2009 and in Lithuania the following year, but his confidence should be high following the best win of his life over Lacko.
While Slovakia went into the tie with a clear edge in terms of singles rankings, Britain had a marginal advantage in the doubles. Fleming and Hutchins have enjoyed considerable success since joining forces more than a year ago, reaching the quarter-finals at both Wimbledon and the US Open.
The first two sets were tight. Two double faults by Polasek helped the Britons to make the crucial break midway through the first set before the second went to a tie-break, which the home pair won 7-4. Polasek, the highest ranked doubles player on court, had been struggling, but the world No 21 came to life in the third set, which lasted just 24 minutes.
The Britons then broke Polasek in the fourth to take a 4-2 lead and served out for victory, which Hutchins secured with an ace. "I think home advantage made all the difference," Fleming said afterwards. "It came down to a few tight, nervous moments and the crowd managed to get us through them."
Anne Keothavong will face British compatriot Heather Watson for the first time tomorrow as they compete for a place in the main draw of the lucrative Qatar Total Open.