Defending champions Great Britain have successfully rallied in the absence of Andy Murray to beat Serbia and book a home Davis Cup semi-final date against Argentina with one singles rubber to spare. Leading 2-1 following Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot's doubles success on Saturday (16 July), Kyle Edmund backed up his maiden competition victory over Janko Tipsarevic by defeating Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 on clay at the stony Tasmajdan Stadium in central Belgrade.
It is the first time that GB have won a World Group contest without their number-ranked player, who did travel to the Balkans in a supporting role, but ruled himself out of contention to play following his second triumph at Wimbledon and with preparations for the hard courts of Rio de Janeiro and the US Open underway.
Slovenian-born British number three Aljaz Bedene is still unable to feature for his adopted country in Davis Cup competition after the International Tennis Federation (ITF) rejected an appeal that his passport application had been lodged before last year's rule change, preventing players from representing two different nations. The 12-time Grand Slam winner and reigning world number one Novak Djokovic was crucially missing for Serbia, in addition to Viktor Troicki.
A confident Edmund wasted little time in hammering home his advantage, with Lajovic saving a break point at the net at 2-2 before conceding his next service game with an erroneous forehand. He was powerless to prevent his opponent from claiming the opening set with back-to-back powerful aces.
Things became more attritional at the start of the second, where Lajovic saw off two more break points with the controversial aid of a call from the crowd during an important rally. Edmund's own serve then came under real pressure before he bravely held and shook off the disappointment of missing one further break point to force two consecutive shots into the net at deuce.
The aggressive right-hander then battled through from 30-30 on his own serve but was unable to claim another break and two set points. No matter, though, as some more trademark muscular forehands quickly got the job done.
He demonstrated further battling qualities in the third to snuff out any danger trailing 0-30 either side of two holds from Lajovic and was unfortunate not to break once more at 2-3. A backhand into the tramlines gave the Serbian another reprieve at 3-3, but Edmund kept the pressure on to clinch a final break.
Expected to serve out the match, he was instead broken for the first time on a long backhand and then had to hold his nerve to stay in the set. He did so, just, by saving another two break points during a titanic 12th game deuce and teeing up a tense, topsy-turvy tiebreak which he won 7-5 when Lajovic fired a backhand wide.
That result being concluded in less than four sets meant that James Ward's dead rubber singles meeting with Tipsarevic still went ahead. The home favourite prevailed 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.
Leon Smith's side will face Argentina for a place in only their third Davis Cup final since 1937 after the South Americans eliminated Italy 3-1 courtesy of Federico Delbonis' clinching 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 win over Fabio Fognini. The 25-year-old beat Andreas Seppi on Friday, while Guido Pella and Juan Martin del Potro avenged Juan Monaco's loss to Fognini with a five-set doubles defeat of the latter and Paolo Lorenzi yesterday. That tie was also held on clay at Circolo Tennis Baratoff in Pesaro.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's closing win over Jiri Vesely in Trinec also secured France's spot in the last four at the expense of the Czech Republic. They will face either the United States or Croatia, who resume their match later today with John Isner vs Marin Cilic and possibly Jack Sock vs Borna Coric at the Tualatin Hills Tennis Center in Portland, Oregon. The US currently lead 2-1.