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Dan Evans makes winning Davis Cup return but Uzbekistan level as Norrie beaten

Jurabek Karimov came from two sets down to beat an out-of-sorts Cameron Norrie in Friday’s second five-setter.

Dan Evans makes winning Davis Cup return but Uzbekistan level as Norrie beaten

Dan Evans put a painful 18 months behind him by making a spectacular return to Davis Cup action.

The 28-year-old beat Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin in a five-set thriller in Glasgow to put Great Britain ahead in their world group play-off.

However, that lead was wiped out in sensational style by world number 434 Jurabek Karimov, who came from two sets down to beat an out-of-sorts Cameron Norrie in Friday’s second five-setter.

The 23-year-old raced through the first set in 19 minutes and had a match point in the third-set tie-break, but ended up going down 0-6 5-7 7-6 (8/6) 6-2 6-2.

It was therefore just as well Evans had battled to the biggest victory of his comeback, after which he admitted he had serious doubts about whether he could get his career back on track.

Evans only returned to the court in April, a couple of miles down the road at Scotstoun Leisure Centre, in fact, after serving a one-year ban for testing positive for cocaine.

He has played mainly second-tier Challenger events in a bid to get his ranking up, but he got the call-up to the Great Britain team with Andy Murray and Kyle Edmund still absent.

Evans looked down and out when Istomin, the world number 60, raced away with the third set to take a 2-1 lead.

But gutsy Evans, whose last five-setter was two years ago at the US Open, somehow fought back to win 7-6 (7/4) 4-6 0-6 6-4 7-5.

He said: “It was a good moment. You don’t get moments like that very often and obviously I didn’t think it would be coming this quick.

“Did I doubt I could come back? For sure. I still have moments now. I’m nowhere near back there yet, I’m only 200 in the world.

“I still have doubts now if I’ll get back but that’s pretty normal. Days like today make you see light at the end of the tunnel.

“It’s been tough, without doubt. The hardest part is you’re just so far away from the world you’re used to.

“I had to live a pretty boring, sheltered life. No real existence or importance. I didn’t do much I just had to play second fiddle.

“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 and that was it really.”

The match was almost Murray-esque in its drama, a rollercoaster of a battle and Davis Cup tennis at its finest, even though the change in the competition’s format next year means this tie is not a relegation decider.

The revamp into a World Cup-style tournament also means that the Emirates Arena, the scene of so many memorable Great Britain victories in recent years, may not host it again for some time.

On this evidence that is a shame, and was not lost on Scot Murray, who sent a good luck message which was played on the big screen, saying: “Unfortunately this might be the last time we get to play in Glasgow as a team, I hope you all make the most of it.”

Evans certainly did that, but Norrie then clutched defeat from the jaws of victory in the second singles rubber.

Norrie said: “I guess it just makes the tie more interesting.

Cameron Norrie let slip great Britain's lead
Cameron Norrie let slip great Britain’s lead (Ian Rutherford/PA)

“I’ll try to forget that as soon as possible but it hurts a lot because I’m not playing for myself, I’m playing for the team.”

That left the tie level going into Saturday’s doubles, where Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot will face Istomin and Sanjar Fayziev.

Great Britain need a victory in the tie to ensure they are seeded in February’s qualifying tournament.

Captain Leon Smith said: “Obviously there was one big upset on our side and an upset for them.

“The good thing is across both teams there was no lack of effort, four players all emptied the tanks on the court.”

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