Kyle Edmund faces the biggest test of his young career on today when he will attempt to guide Davis Cup champions Great Britain into the semi-finals again.
Leon Smith’s side lead Serbia 2-1 going into the final day in Belgrade after defeat for James Ward in the delayed second singles yesterday was followed by Dom Inglot and Jamie Murray’s doubles victory.
Edmund chalked up his first win in the competition on Friday over Janko Tipsarevic and, if he can repeat that against Dusan Lajovic, Britain will progress to the last four.
Judging by Lajovic’s performance in hammering Ward 6-1, 6-3, 6-2, Edmund will need to play at least as well as he did against an under-the-weather and out-of-sorts Tipsarevic.
Neither Lajovic nor Edmund – who have taken on the No.1 roles in the absence of both countries’ highest-profile players – have ever won a decisive match in Davis Cup.
Lajovic, ranked 14 places lower than Edmund at 81, said: “It’s going to be a match with a lot of nerves and we’ll see how we are going to handle the pressure.”
Edmund’s only previous experience of Davis Cup came in last year’s final against Belgium, when he won the first two sets against David Goffin but lost in five.
He will surely lean on cheerleader-in-chief Andy Murray, who won every tie in Britain’s magical title run last year, in the fourth rubber.
Smith backed Edmund to handle the pressure, saying: “It definitely helps to be 2-1 up, there’s no doubt. They know they have to win that first match. I think it’ll be a good match, it should be high level.
“It’s definitely new territory for Kyle, but I think it would also be new territory for Lajovic.
“Although it was a tough one to throw him into, Kyle did really well in the Davis Cup final, so he’s had that big moment. He’s very level-headed, very grounded, very methodical in his approach. We saw how he reacted against Tipsarevic and I’ve got every confidence he’ll be able to play his game.”
Inglot joined Edmund in winning his first Davis Cup point this weekend as he and Jamie Murray defeated Nenad Zimonjic and Filip Krajinovic 6-1, 6-7 (2/7), 6-3, 6-4.
Inglot sat on the sidelines for three out of the four ties last year as the Murray brothers took centre stage but he and Jamie were favourites to beat Zimonjic, a classy but fading doubles force at the age of 40, and the inexperienced Krajinovic.
Krajinovic, a late replacement for Tipsarevic and a player who had not contested a match since May because of wrist problems, looked distinctly rusty as Britain raced through the opening set with the sun finally shining over the Tasmajdan Stadium.
Serbia capitalised on missed British chances to win the second but, after missing nine break points in a row, Murray and Inglot finally converted when Zimonjic double-faulted to trail 5-3 in the third.
They broke again at the start of the fourth set and, although the final game was tense, Inglot completed the job to give Britain a 15th doubles win from the last 17 rubbers.
Inglot said of his maiden win: “It feels really good. Being part of the team is fantastic but it makes you feel that you’ve really contributed.”
Murray was not too worried by the loss of the second set, saying: “I think we were a bit unfortunate. We had all the chances and then they played a few good points in the tie-break. I was disappointed the way we lost that but I was still confident and calm that we would prevail over four or five sets.”
Should Lajovic beat Edmund, the tie would come down to a deciding fifth rubber between Ward and probably Tipsarevic, with Serbian captain Bogdan Obradovic hinting strongly he would stick with the 32-year-old despite his poor showing on Friday. Ward was equally off the pace, struggling on the boggy clay court, which had been saturated by 24 hours of rain.
Smith, though, believes the experience could benefit the 29-year-old, whose ranking has slipped to 240 after a miserable year.
The Scot said: “He didn’t [play well] but I think it might help him because he had to fight very hard to get games on the board and get any type of momentum. But it’s still a big ask if it comes to him.”
Ward was not originally in the team but got the call to replace Dan Evans last Wednesday, just six hours before he was due to fly to the USA for a grass-court tournament.
In the other quarter-finals Argentina lead Italy 2-1 while France are beating Czech Repulic by the same score. USA opened up a 2-0 lead over Croatia on the first day.