For Britain’s hardy Davis Cup fans in Glasgow, Friday must have felt like a night out on the tiles followed by a rotten hangover. After Dan Evans produced a sensational comeback victory against Denis Istomin, Cameron Norrie suffered one of the all-time great Davis Cup chokes as he lost from two sets and a match point up to the world No 434 Jurabek Karimov.
It had all looked rosy for Britain when Norrie held a match point in the third set, but he went into meltdown and ended up suffering a humiliating 0-6, 5-7, 7-6, 6-2, 6-2 defeat. The upset was even more remarkable given that Norrie raced through the opening set in just 19 minutes. The match ended up lasting three hours 39 minutes.
To give a sense of the 20-year-old Karimov’s complete lack of pedigree, he has not played a single ATP Tour-level match, instead spending most of his short career turning out on the third-tier Futures circuit.
For shocking Davis Cup losses, it was right up there with Jeremy Bates' infamous defeat in Didsbury, Manchester from a similar position and by an almost identical scoreline to the 17-year-old Romanian Razvan Sabau 24 years ago. It was here that the phrase "Didsbury Rule" to warn against British over-confidence was born.
Rarely since has it been so appropriate, and Norrie’s loss means the tie – which will decide if Britain are seeded for next year’s preliminary round – is finely poised at 1-1 ahead of Saturday’s doubles rubber. A dis-believing Norrie said afterwards: “I’ll try to forget that as soon as possible but it hurts a lot because I am not playing for myself, I’m playing for the team.
“I competed as hard as I could and I have another chance to get the ‘w’ on Sunday.”
What a contrast the shell-shocked mood in the Emirates Arena at the end of the day’s play was to the jubilation that had greeted Evans’ epic 4hr 11 min 7-6, 4-6, 0-6, 6-4, 7-5 win over world No 60 Istomin.
Evans, who only returned to tennis five months ago following a drugs ban for taking cocaine, fought back tears after securing an emotional victory.
Reflecting on his enforced absence, he said: “You’re just so far away from the world you are used to. I had to live a pretty boring, sheltered life. No real existence or importance. I didn’t have anything to do because I couldn’t play tennis. I would just wait at home for my girlfriend to come back from work.
“I had doubts I would ever make it back. I still have doubts. But days like today make you see light at the end of the tunnel.”
Captain Leon Smith said that the day’s drama showed why there was such resistance to next year’s revamping of the Davis Cup, which will see far fewer home-and-away ties like this and an end to best-of-five set matches. “These are the games people will miss,” he said. “The good thing is across both teams there was no lack of effort.”