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Argentina overcome Del Potro doubles blunder, ending Britain's Davis Cup dream

Leonardo Mayer celebrated with his Argentina teammates, including Juan Martin del Potro (left), after beating Dan Evans. Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

GLASGOW, Scotland -- Here in the city of Andy Murray's birth, the locals had hoped that a 29-year-old who came into the world on May 15, 1987, would determine the outcome of this Davis Cup semifinal.

Unfortunately, as far as the Glaswegians were concerned, it was the wrong guy who had his moment of personal elevation under the arc-lights with Argentina's Leonardo Mayer -- who shares a birthday with Murray -- defeating Britain's Daniel Evans in the decisive fifth rubber.

With Murray's earlier victory over Guido Pella, this was all set up for what would have been the greatest comeback in the history of British tennis, after the defending champions had trailed 0-2 after the opening day, and victory for Evans would also have brought about a home final against Croatia in November.

But all those hopes, dreams and aspirations, after Britain last year won the competition for the first time since 1936, fizzled out on Mayer's strings. The Great Escape of Glasgow? On this occasion, Harry Houdini couldn't slip out of the straitjacket.

"This feels rough, as it should do," said Leon Smith, the British captain, "but we've been on one hell of a run in this competition."

Born around 6,500 miles from this hard court in the city of Corrientes, and currently ranked outside the world's top 100, Mayer will always remember the weekend he spent in Glasgow. In the absence of Juan Martin del Potro, who wasn't in good enough shape to play on Sunday after wearing himself out with the ludicrous decision to play in Saturday's doubles rubber, it was Mayer who stepped up.

Ignore his current ranking of No. 114 (he has been as high as 21 in the standings) -- he can certainly play, as he demonstrated by coming from a set down for this 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory inside three hours.

As Evans illustrated at the US Open a couple of weeks ago, where he came within a point of beating eventual champion Stan Wawrinka in the third round, he has no shortage of talent. But talent is never enough in the white heat of a fifth rubber of a Davis Cup rubber; did he also have the nerve?

So never mind that near-miss against Wawrinka in New York. This was, without equivocation, the biggest occasion in his tennis life. The pressure was getting to everyone, and everything, with the Hawk-Eye line-calling technology malfunctioning deep into this match when Evans wanted to make a challenge.

Only twice before in more than a century of Davis Cup tennis had Britain come from 0-2 down to win a tie, and one of those victories, against Russia in Coventry in 2013, had been completed by Evans himself. Still, there is a world of difference between the fifth rubber of a Euro-African Zone and when there is a place in the Davis Cup final on the line. Evans had never previously won a match in the World Group, let alone one of this magnitude.

There was another reason why this was at the limit of Evans' experience -- and that was the noise. "A Glasgow roar" is how Leon Smith, the British captain, describes the sound that this tennis crowd have been making all weekend in the east of the city, and it's hard to imagine that thousands of Scots have ever greeted an Englishman as enthusiastically as when Evans made his entrance.

It's not often that Murray is on the undercard in Glasgow, but this was one such example. And those decibels levels didn't abate. If anything, this arena grew louder, chanting "Evo, Evo" and so confirming that there's no more excitable tennis crowd in Britain.

Only adding to the din was Murray, who after going through his warm-down routine, and fulfilling his postmatch media commitments, joined this late in the opening set.

Backstage intrigue is an element of every Davis Cup weekend, especially as you go deeper into the competition, and this tie was no different. All morning, and then throughout Murray's victory over Pella, there were competing rumours and whispers about whether Del Potro would play in a decisive fifth rubber. What could be read into Del Potro's short and snappy warm-up on the match court before play began for the day? Or from his absences from the Argentine bench when Murray was closing in for the kill against Pella?

It was only after Murray had levelled the tie, and the captains had given their nominations for the final match, that the full absurdity of Del Potro playing doubles was made apparent. At the same time, it was confirmed that Evans would be playing instead of Kyle Edmund, who hadn't been at his best against Pella on Friday evening.

Murray's class and willpower overrode the pain and fatigue in his legs as he defeated Pella 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in just over two hours. Murray wasn't going to let tiredness or injury drag him, and his team, down. This tie came at the end of a long spring and summer in which he played in a first French Open final, scored a second Wimbledon title and retained his status as the Olympic champion.

And this weekend could hardly have been busier as prior to playing Pella, he had already spent eight hours on court -- he had never played a match as long as his five-hour defeat by Del Potro on Friday, and Saturday's doubles match was a further three hours of tennis.

The only let-up for Pella came in the third set when Murray disappeared for a medical timeout. But he came running back after receiving treatment, and within minutes had completed his victory, leaving the stage for Evans. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be.