Great Britain had to end their Davis Cup season prematurely with a hugely disappointing loss to the Netherlands in Glasgow.
Wednesday’s loss to the USA had seen Britain beat the Netherlands and likely Kazakhstan too, but Sunday’s competition will now be a meaningless match after Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury again came out on the wrong side of a dramatic crucial doubles game.
Instead, it’s the Dutch, with their small group of orange-clad fans, and the Americans, who, after two wins from their first two games each, can celebrate their place in the round of 16 in Malaga in November.
Britain had to bounce back after being ousted by the USA very late on Wednesday night and they got off to a perfect start as Dan Evans defeated Tallon Griekspoor 6-4, 6-4.
But Cameron Norrie then performed poorly, going down 6-4, 6-2 to Botic Van De Zandschulp and Murray and Salisbury were beaten 7-6 (0), 6-7 (6) by Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop. , beaten 6-3 despite the Emirates Stadium crowd’s best effort to convince their home hero in his 50th Davis Cup game.
Murray was knocked down again against Neal Skupski, who reached the men’s doubles final with Koolhof at the US Open last week, and he and Salisbury got off to a great start with a Middelkoop break of serve in the opening game.
But they couldn’t hold the lead and the Dutch pair played an inspired first tiebreak.
The second tie-break was filled with drama as Great Britain saved a match point and then, thanks to a helpful net line, got the first set point.
Players, team and fans celebrated happily but they were yet to win the decider and after missing chances at 3-3, Salisbury gave up serve in the next game, leaving Koolhof to dish out the win.
Captain Leon Smith has never had greater strength at his disposal, but with these selection dilemmas he has to reflect on the most disappointing week of his long and hugely successful captaincy, especially given Britain’s home field advantage.
They are set to host a group stage in the next four years, but only if they qualify among the top 16 nations, which likely means they win a play-off in early 2023 because they certainly can’t expect another wild card.
Norrie had worked his way through to a win over Taylor Fritz on Wednesday but this time couldn’t recover from a poor start against a player he easily beaten in Montreal last month.
The world number eight struggled to find his game on the very slow Glasgow course and was second best throughout against Van De Zandschulp, who served 13 aces.
Norrie said: “He was better than me. I just gifted him two service games. He didn’t really have to do much to end up breaking me. That’s not a player on my leaderboard, and that’s me on a really bad day.
“I was really impressed by Botic and his level. Especially last time I played a very clean match on my serve and gave him absolutely nothing. That’s what he did to me today.”
Evans, who lost a high-profile duel with USA’s Tommy Paul, didn’t have everything in his own way against Griekspoor but played a very solid match, breaking serve once in every set.
The British number two said: “It was a good match. I played well. More of a game where you just focus on really getting through and getting a win.
“I knew I was obviously playing better than him, the higher-ranked player in the match. I just had to put my game on the pitch, make sure I was focusing at the right moments and putting pressure on him.”
Elsewhere, Carlos Alcaraz’s first game as world number one in Spain-Canada in Valencia ended in a three-set loss to Felix Auger-Aliassime.
The 19-year-old maintained his commitment to playing on home soil despite winning his first Grand Slam title at the US Open just five days ago.
Australia and Germany progressed in Hamburg thanks to the hosts’ victory over Belgium, while Italy are on pole in Group A after beating Argentina.