Switzerland’s reign as Davis Cup holders was swiftly ended when they paid the inevitable price for fielding a second-string team and lost 3-2 to Belgium in the first round in Liege on Sunday.
Just over three months since Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka drove them to an historic title in Lille, France, it was a different story without their big two as Switzerland became the first champions in 10 years to fall at the first hurdle.
World No. 2 Federer and Wawrinka had chosen to stand aside after achieving their ambitions and the stand-ins were not able to upset the odds against much higher-ranked players, despite a heroic effort from 22-year-old Henri Laaksonen.
The world No. 344, who previously played for Finland, leveled the tie at 2-2 with a 6-3, 3-6, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-1 win over Steve Darcis, a player ranked 242 places higher.
For the second time in three days, the remarkable Laaksonen fought back to prevail in a five-setter.
However, Switzerland’s hopes were extinguished in the deciding rubber when David Goffin, the world No. 21 who was rested on Friday because of concerns over a back injury, proved too good for world No. 321 Adrien Bossel and won 6-4, 6-0, 6-4.
For the second year running Andy Murray led Britain to a first-round victory over the US when he beat John Isner 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) in Glasgow, Scotland.
The former Wimbledon champion survived some early scares against the big-serving American before taking charge to steer Britain into an unassailable 3-1 lead.
In the quarter-finals Britain face a home tie against France, who beat Germany with a day to spare.
“It’s been incredible the whole week. To be in the quarter-finals for the second time in a row is a credit to everyone,” said world No. 5 Murray, who reveled in front of a Scottish crowd.
Isner, beaten in five sets by British No. 2 James Ward on Friday, had three set points in the opener, but could not convert, and despite some fierce resistance in the third set he could not keep the 32-time champions alive.
Italy, who beat Britain in the quarter-finals last year, went down to Kazakhstan in Astana where Aleksandr Nedovyesov, ranked 130th in the world, stunned world No. 22 Fabio Fognini in five sets to seal a 3-2 victory.
Kazakhstan next travel to former Davis Cup heavyweights Australia, who enjoyed a 3-1 victory over 2012 and 2013 winners the Czech Republic in Ostrava, Bernard Tomic clinching the win with a 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) triumph over Lukas Rosol.
Australia are through to the last eight for the first time since 2006.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s Serbia crushed Croatia 5-0 and next take on Argentina or Brazil.
Leonardo Mayer kept Argentina in the tie against Brazil in Buenos Aires with a five-set win over Joao Souza in a match that set a competition singles record by lasting 6 hours, 42 minutes.
With the tie at 2-2, Argentina went into a fourth day yesterday with Federico Delbonis leading Thomaz Bellucci 6-3 in the deciding rubber after bad light ended play.
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