Uzbekistan’s Jurabek Karimov scored the biggest victory of his fledgling career as he rallied from two sets down to stun Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie, 0-6, 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-2, 6-2, to level the Davis Cup World Group play-off tie.
Victory appeared a formality for Norrie when he found himself two sets and a break up, but the 20-year-old began to exhibit a level that belies his tender age, and in the process notch one of the biggest Davis Cup shocks of recent times.
'Tough to take'
"It's tough to take, but he was playing so well off both wings," Norrie conceded in his post-match press conference.
"I guess if anything it makes the tie more interesting. I competed as hard as I could and as well as I could so there's nothing more I ask."
The first set was a procession for the Brit, who could not believe his luck when Karimov sunk three successive double faults into the net in his opening service game. Those set the tone for the set as, bar a break point which was offered up in the very next game, Norrie breezed through with no worries.
He broke the Uzbek’s resistance for the double break before outlasting him in the fifth game to hand himself the chance to serve for the set. And after 19 minutes the bagel was confirmed. Few would begrudge the Glasgow crowd for believing they would be home within the hour.
However, when Karimov won his first game of the contest to open set two he began to find his feet; his emotions rising and, at long last, Norrie was in a tussle. He broke the Brit for a 2-0 buffer before breaks were traded as the quality of ball striking dripped dramatically. Norrie took initiative and had the ball in his hand to seal the second set but Karimov’s fighting spirit rose to the surface as he broke back.
The Uzbek was, however, struggling to string successive games together and he was duly broken by the Brit for 6-5. At the second time of asking the world number 70 sealed the set and victory appeared in sight. That appeared to be inching closer when Norrie grabbed the all-important break of serve in the fourth game of the third set.
Change of momentum
However, Karimov would not go down without a fight. He rasped a forehand winner past the top-seeded Brit to restore parity in the set before he fashioned his first set point of the clash off a meek double fault from Norrie. The world number 434 may have passed up on the offer but the confidence which had been bubbling throughout set three drove him on during the tie-break.
He was staring at match point down but held his nerve during a baseline exchange before finding himself with another set point of his own. This time, he did not back down, watching a backhand from the Brit sail wide to force a fourth frame of the match.
Karimov was now playing to a considerably high level, with Norrie visibly agitated in an error-strewn third game that saw him spray unforced errors wide and long. He was broken to love and, with his rhythm from the ground wayward, was staring at a fifth set. Karimov’s verve on court was such that he closed out set four despite the resistance from Norrie.
Having never played a five-setter before, Karimov was expected to wilt. But after a confident hold for 1-1 he pounced upon the Norrie serve. Aided by a deluge of unforced errors he broke the Brit twice in succession and, despite relinquishing one of the breaks, found himself within a hold of the biggest victory of his career. He could not believe his luck when Norrie sent a return long on match point.