By Ros Satar
Evgeny Donskoy [RUS] def. James Ward [GBR] 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 8-6
(April 5, 2013) COVENTRY, ENGLAND – Evgeny Donskoy delivered a real heartbreaker in another five-set thriller on the first day of the Davis Cup tie between Great Britain and Russia in the Euro/Africa zone second round Group 1 play.
Donskoy came from two sets down to give Russia a 2-0 lead at the end of the first day.
At the start of the match, though, the outcome looked far from certain.
In press, Dan Evans regretted not starting fast enough, James Ward more than made up for it.
The British No. 2 came out swinging solidly with very few unforced errors, and an early break secured him the first set.
A similar fast start to the second set meant it would be a long way back for the Russian, Evgeny Donskoy, who impressed many with his performance against Andy Murray at Indian Wells.
It was almost as though, with the pressure reversed, Donskoy was left floundering, at times his feet just not catching up with the rest of him.
That is not to say that he did not have some chances of his own, breaking back to make sure that Ward would not take this match for granted.
Into the third set and there was a distinct feeling that Donskoy was feeling his way back into the match.
Nerves seemed to overtake Ward, as he scrambled to save three set points, capitulating on the fourth.
After such a blistering start, suddenly it was Ward’s turn to look ill at ease, going down a break quickly in the fourth set.
Ward exhibited some of that earlier confidence, holding to love to stay in the set as the Russian was taken to deuce on his serve, for the fourth set.
Ward saved two set points but a lazy squash shot sailed just long past the corner of the court, to take the second rubber into a deciding fifth set.
It was beginning to look a little like last man standing out there, as the fifth set progressed with serve, particularly grueling on Ward’s service game, saving the first break points against is serve in the decider.
Donskoy was coming up with the goods both times he was serving to stay in the set.
As Ward came out to serve at 6-6 there was a sense that he had made his last stand, as the Russian broke.
There was a brief glimmer of hope as the Russian went 0-30 down, serving for the match, and then again as Ward saved the first match point against him.
Suddenly it was Donskoy’s turn to feel under the hammer, as Ward wrestled a break point back, and then had to save a second match point.
The third time was the charm for Donskoy as Russia took the second rubber, 8-6 in the final set.
It was an interesting contrast in press, with an equally dejected Ward hoping to work harder to improve, whereas Evans understood that he was struggling with that desire to improve.
Leon Smith concluded the conference, believing that the tie could be turned around, starting with the doubles tomorrow, with the top British pairing of Fleming and Marray favorites to put a rubber on the board for Britain.
Despite trailing 0-2 in the tie, Captain Leon Smith said, “I am so proud of both Dan and James today. It was excellent international tennis, very high level, more than eight hours and great value for money. The team spirit was great today and we have it still all to play for tomorrow in the doubles and in Sunday’s singles.”
Then on Sunday, can two players who have proved they can punch above their weight, turn things around?
Ros Satar is a British Journalist- an IT journalist by day, and a sports journalist in all the gaps in between. She is the co-founder of Britwatch Sports (britwatchsports.com). Follow her on twitter at @rfsatar.