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

Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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.

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor