Great Britain have lost their Davis Cup World Group tie with Spain 3-1 after Cameron Norrie was beaten in four sets by world number 21 Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
Norrie, who brilliantly came back from two sets down against Roberto Bautisa Agut on Friday, produced another gutsy performance before suffering a 7-6 (7-4) 2-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 defeat in Marbella.
After losing Saturday’s doubles rubber, Britain needed to win both singles matches on the final day to reach the quarter-finals for a fifth successive year. Instead, Leon Smith’s side will play a World Group play-off in September, which they’ll have to win if they are to remain in the competition’s top tier.
A bright future ahead
"I can't speak highly enough of what Cam has done all weekend," said Great Britain captain Smith after the match. "People might have thought Friday was a one-off but he did it again against another high-quality player. He pushed him really close and I'm really proud of him. The only way is up for him."
Norrie, 22, hadn’t even played a competitive match on clay before his victory over Bautista Agut, a man ranked 91 places higher than the Brit, on Friday. That was also the first time Norrie, the world number 114 had played beyond three sets, yet here he was again, going toe-to-toe with a man renowned for his clay-court prowess.
Norrie goes down fighting
Ramos-Vinolas defeated Andy Murray at the Monte Carlo Masters last year, and in the early exchanges the Spaniard showed his class.
The world number 21 raced into a 4-0 then 5-2 lead, after a wonderful display of controlled and measured clay-court tennis. Yet, after saving two break points, Norrie fought back to force a tie break, wresting back momentum with a couple of deft drop shots and forays to the net.
The breaker went the way of the Spaniard, after a couple of loose forehands from Norrie at 3-4 handed his opponent three set points. But the Brit had plenty of positives to draw upon after a set which lasted 75 minutes and yielded eight breaks of serve.
After holding serve from 0-30 in the fourth game of the second set, Norrie reeled off the next four games to level the match at a set apiece. For a good half an hour, the Brit completely outplayed his higher-ranked opponent, finding the perfect balance between aggression and control.
A brief lull at the start of the third allowed the Spaniard to build up a 3-0 lead but still Norrie wouldn’t lie down. The Brit fought back again to force another tie break, but once again it was Ramos-Vinolas who prevailed. The Spaniard quickly took control at the start of the fourth, and eventually wrapped up the victory in three hours and 43 minutes.