James Ward's cruel defeat leaves Britain with
tough task

 

The Ricoh Arena

On a day when Britain’s Davis Cup team lost both their opening singles rubbers here against Russia in desperately tight five-set matches, it might not have been the best moment for Dan Evans to admit: “I don’t train hard enough and don’t work hard enough.”

Evans’ confession came after the 22-year-old from Birmingham had played some of his best tennis before losing 6-4, 6-7, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 to Dmitry Tursunov in the first encounter of this Europe Africa Zone Group One tie. To compound the home team’s frustration, James Ward then lost  4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 8-6 to Evgeny Donskoy, having been up two sets and a break.

Considering that the two home players were attempting to bridge a total gap of 392 places in the world rankings, the fact that Britain ended the first day trailing was no great surprise. Given the manner of their defeats, however, the scoreline was a bitter disappointment.

Leon Smith’s team will be favourites to win today’s doubles – Colin Fleming and Jonny Marray are due to face Igor Kunitsyn and Victor Baluda, though the Russians could call up the experienced Tursunov – but even a victory will leave them with a huge task in tomorrow’s reverse singles. The winners go through to a September play-off for a place in the World Group.

Evans, whose attitude has often been called into question, had been a bold selection by Smith, who preferred the British No 6 to Jamie Baker, who is ranked 90 places higher and has always shown exemplary dedication. Smith reasoned that Evans’ greater flair was more likely to bring the sort of upset that would be needed to win the tie.

Despite his post-match comments, Evans justified his selection with an excellent performance against Tursunov, a ferocious ball-striker with a big serve. The world No 67 stands 6ft 1in tall, while the 5ft 9in Evans even found himself looking up to one of the ballboys. What he lacks in physical presence, however, the world No 325 can compensate for with the deftness of his touch. He has a fine sliced backhand, assured volleys and an innate knowledge of how to build points.

There were several periods where Tursunov appeared to take control only for Evans to fight back. Even in the decider Evans levelled at 2-2 after Tursunov had won the first two games before the Russian went on to claim victory after nearly four hours.

When asked afterwards why he consistently fails to live up to his Davis Cup form, Evans was brutally honest. “It’s because I don’t train hard enough and don’t work hard enough day in and day out,” he said before adding, with only a hint of a smile: “I’m obviously pretty bad at my job.”

He continued: “Obviously I want to push on, but it’s easier said than done. Thousands of people have told me to do it, but I’m yet to do it for a sustained period of time. When I do do it, I obviously play pretty well.”

Ward, the world No 214 and a consistent performer for Britain, struck the ball beautifully against Donskoy, only for the world No 80 to snatch victory on his Davis Cup debut. Donskoy, who took a set off Andy Murray in Indian Wells last month, grew in confidence after retrieving an early break at the start of the third set.

Donskoy twice had to hold serve to stay in the match but at 6-6 in the decider he made the vital break. The 22-year-old went on to secure victory after three hours and 45 minutes, but only after Ward had saved two match points with superb backhand cross-court passing shots. It was a cruel end to a day that had promised much.

Team GB Schedule

* Great Britain 0-1 Russia Yesterday

D Evans lost to D Tursunov

J Ward lost to E Donskoy

Today (from 1pm)

C Fleming & J Marray v I Kunitsyn & V Baluda

Tomorrow (from 1pm)

J Ward v D Tursunov

D Evans v E Donskoy

PROMOTED VIDEO
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there