Britain sneek into ATP Cup knockouts at expense of Bulgaria
Belgium won a tense and decisive doubles rubber against Bulgaria to send the Tim Henman-led Britain into the ATP Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday.
With only the top team from each group at the 24-nation championship qualifying for the knockout phase, the fate of Group C came down to who won a clash pitting Grigor Dimitrov and Dimitar Kuzmanov against Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen.
Belgium's Gille and Vliegen came through 3-6, 6-4, 10-7 to shatter Bulgarian dreams.
Despite winning, Belgium could not go through to the last eight, while Bulgaria needed to win.
A third scenario was also in play, with Britain, who beat Moldova 3-0, clinching the group if Belgium defeated the Bulgarians 2-1, which is what happened.
"Tough finding words right now. A very special feeling after pulling out the win today," said Vliegen.
Bulgaria had the opportunity to seal their berth after Kuzmanov thrashed Steve Darcis in the opening singles and Dimitrov took the first set in his showdown with David Goffin.
But the world number 11 Belgium rallied to take the next two sets and send the tie to a doubles decider.
Despite the bitter loss, Kuzmanov said they fared better than expected and had done Bulgaria proud.
"The emotions back home are just on fire. The whole country speaks about us. All the news, starting with us. People staying up late, going to sleep late, waking up early to watch us," he said.
"We are making them so proud. Doesn't matter the outcome."
Earlier, British captain Henman called Dan Evans "world class" after he backed up his ATP Cup upset of Goffin on Monday by crushing Moldova's Radu Albot.
Evans, who has climbed to 42 in the world after starting last season at 199, was too strong for a player ranked four places below him in the 6-2, 6-2 thrashing.
Cameron Norrie won his singles clash with Alexander Cozbinov by the same score before Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury dismissed Albot and Cozbinov 6-2, 6-3 in doubles to seal the tie 3-0.
"I would say my concern for the Evans match was how he would respond after putting in such a good performance against Goffin. It's not always easy to back that up," said Henman.
"I mean, he was world class again. Gave so little away. Got off to a very good start, took his opportunities, and it was a really clinical performance."
Evans said he was enjoying the experience of starting the season with a team event, with everyone supporting each other.
"I mean, it's enjoyable to have the guys on the side. To (have them) sort of come out every point, point in, point out, has really helped. Not just me. I think everyone is sort of focused a little better than on tour.
"So I don't think it's an accident that I have been playing good, focusing on that. I'll definitely use that for when I'm carrying on during the year."
© 2020 AFP