Britain's Davis Cup team were always likely to face an uphill task in Glasgow this weekend and Leon Smith's men will need an heroic comeback if they are to win their Europe Africa Zone Group One tie at the Braehead Arena. Belgium took a 2-0 lead after the first day's singles and need only one more point to earn a play-off for a place in the World Group in September.
Nevertheless, the scoreline did not do justice to battling performances by Josh Goodall and Dan Evans. Both Britons were attempting to bridge large gaps in the world rankings and both inspired real hopes of upsets before letting slip early leads. Goodall, the world No 253, was beaten 6-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 by Steve Darcis, the world No 68, while Dan Evans, the world No 334, went down 3-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-4 to Olivier Rochus, the world No 59. "Both players left everything out on the court today," Smith said afterwards.
Evans in particular could feel proud of his match against an opponent who has beaten Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling in the last two years. The 21-year-old from Birmingham, the hero of Britain's victory over Slovakia two months ago, again played sparkling tennis that belied his ranking.
Rochus was suffering with cramp in the fourth set and admitted afterwards that it would have been "almost impossible" for him to win if the match had gone to a decider. Such an outcome looked likely as Evans held on to an early break, but when serving at 4-3 he showed his inexperience when he netted an attempted drop shot on break point. Rochus broke again two games later to secure victory.
Goodall, who had not won a set in his only previous Davis Cup action three years ago, has spent most of this year playing on the Futures circuit, two levels below the main ATP Tour, on which Darcis is a regular. But having lost the first set tie-break 7-2, the Belgian broke decisively to lead 5-3 in the second and pressed his advantage early on in both third and fourth sets.
Britain should keep the tie alive in today's doubles, when Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins are due to take on Ruben Bemelmans and David Goffin.