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Cameron Norrie
British number one Cameron Norrie lost in the singles for the first time at the 2021 Davis Cup, setting up the decisive doubles rubber

Great Britain missed out on a place in the Davis Cup semi-finals when Joe Salisbury and Neal Skupski lost the deciding doubles in a high-quality quarter-final against Germany.

Salisbury and Skupski were beaten 7-6 (12-10) 7-6 (7-5) by German pair Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz in Innsbruck.

The Britons missed four set points in the first tie-break and let a 5-0 lead slip in the second.

“We’re 5-0 up, we should win the tie-break, simple as that,” said Salisbury.

“We lost seven points in a row. There is no team in the world that should do that.”

Salisbury, ranked third in the world and a two-time Grand Slam men’s doubles champion, added: “We tried our best but it just wasn’t good enough. We are gutted how it turned out, but also just very disappointed at the level, especially from me.”

Germany will play the Russian Tennis Federation or Sweden in the last four.

Krawietz and Puetz clinched victory for Germany in the best-of-three quarter-final after the two teams shared wins in the singles.

British number two Dan Evans thrashed Peter Gojowczyk before Cameron Norrie – the nation’s leading player – lost to Jan-Lennard Struff.

Evans ensured his team made the perfect start with a 6-2 6-1 win over Gojowczyk, who was a late change in the German team.

Winning the opening rubber meant Norrie – ranked 12th in the world – had the opportunity to seal Britain’s progress, but he was beaten 7-6 (8-6) 3-6 6-2 as Struff teed up the winner-takes-all decider.

Compelling contest ends with contrasting emotions

While the new format of the 18-nation Davis Cup Finals has been criticised, and no fans were present in Innsbruck because of Austria’s coronavirus restrictions, there was no lack of drama and feeling for Britain or Germany in a compelling tie.

The contrasting raw emotions when Germany sealed victory, the winners dancing with delight in a huddle while their dejected opponents made a quick exit, illustrated the continued importance of the event for each nation.

“It feels like a tough day at the office. We are gutted right now and I am gutted for the players,” GB captain Leon Smith told BBC Sport.

“What will make it sorer for all of us is that we had a lot of chances.”

There was hardly anything to separate Salisbury and Skupski, who have both won Grand Slam doubles titles and are ranked inside the world’s top 20, from their German opponents in a tight and tense contest.

But their inability to make the crucial moments go in their favour was costly.

Few nerves were shown throughout the majority of a high-quality match, despite what was at stake.

Dominant service games from all four men led to both sets being decided by tie-breaks, which is where tension finally started to show.

Four set points arrived and disappeared for the British pair in a gripping first tie-break, with the Germans taking a fourth opportunity of their own when Krawietz’s lob landed inside the baseline.

The second-set tie-break was wildly different. This time Salisbury and Skupski raced into a 5-0 lead but, despite the noisy support from the British bench, Krawietz and Puetz retained their focus to complete an extraordinary comeback.

“I am always guarded to overthink things when you’ve just come off and emotions are raw,” Smith added.

“But this is a tough day to swallow.”

The victory earned a measure of revenge for the Germans after they lost to Britain at the same stage of the inaugural Davis Cup Finals two years ago.

Without their star player Alexander Zverev, Germany now travel to Madrid to face the Russian Tennis Federation or Sweden in Saturday’s semi-final.

The Russians, playing under this banner after the nation was banned from international competition for doping, are the favourites to win the 18-nation event and play Sweden in the last quarter-final on Thursday.

Britain’s players will now return home and face the prospect of playing a qualifier in March to reach next year’s Finals.

The German team celebrate beating Great Britain to reach the Davis Cup semi-finals
The German team celebrate reaching the Davis Cup semi-finals for the first time since 2007

Analysis

BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller

There were stony faces in the interview room as the British team tried to come to terms with a quarter-final which ran away from them painfully fast.

Joe Salisbury did not mince his words, and admitted there is just no way he and Neal Skupski should have lost seven points in a row to concede the match and the tie.

Three tie-breaks were played during the quarter-final, and Germany won them all. They were better when it mattered most.

And so the season ends a few days earlier than the British team had hoped, although many of the same faces will be back in national colours for the ATP Cup in Australia in just four and a half weeks’ time.

Banner Image Reading Around the BBC - BlueFooter - BlueSource: BBC

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