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Edmund propels champions Britain into Davis Cup semis

Britain’s Kyle Edmund returns the ball to Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic during the Davis Cup World Group quarter-fi nal singles match between Serbia and Britain at the Tasmajdan stadium in Belgrade on July 17. (AFP)
Britain’s Kyle Edmund returns the ball to Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic during the Davis Cup World Group quarter-fi nal singles match between Serbia and Britain at the Tasmajdan stadium in Belgrade on July 17. (AFP)

BELGRADE, Serbia, July 17, (Agencies): Kyle Edmund stepped into the role of Andy Murray and took titleholder Britain into the semifinals of the Davis Cup by beating Dusan Lajovic of Serbia in straight sets in the first of the reverse singles on Sunday.

Edmund’s 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (5) win on a wet and windy day at the outdoor Tasmajdan clay-court stadium gave Britain an unassailable 3-1 lead in the best-of-five series. Edmund, 21, also won his opening singles on Friday against Janko Tipsarevic as he assumed the role of Murray as the leader of the team. “It’s always a team effort, but in the back of your mind you know what’s on line,” Edmund said. “it’s great to win for the country.”

Murray decided not to play a few days after his second Wimbledon title but cheered the team on from the sidelines. Britain hosts Argentina in September in the semifinals. “It’s a big difference if Andy plays or not, but Kyle didn’t show any inexperience. He knows how to play on clay. He has a great forehand with a lot of spin,” Lajovic said.

Serbia played without Novak Djokovic, the top-ranked player in the world, and the country’s No. 2 Viktor Troicki. Djokovic took a brief break from tennis after his shock third-round exit from Wimbledon and did not come to his native Belgrade. Troicki said he wanted to prepare for the upcoming tournaments. Edmund had to save two set points in the third set before holding serve and he won despite falling behind 4-2 in the tiebreaker.

Lajovic sent a wild backhand way wide to give Edmund a match point and the Briton converted when Lajovic hit another backhand wide. “There were no easy points. It’s nice that I was able to get back into it,” Edmund said. Edmund had broken serve for a 4-3 lead in the final set but dropped his serve for the first time in the match in the 10th game. Britain’s captain Leon Smith was full of praise for Edmund. “He has every reason to be immensely proud. He was brilliant today,”

Smith said. “He’s improved so much physically. His forehand is so huge, such a great shot. His serve is better, his backhand is rock solid.” Edmund had breezed through the first set, finishing it off with two straight aces in the drizzle. But the light rain stopped at the start of the second, with Edmund breaking for 4-3 and closing it with a service winner. Edmund’s huge forehand gave him 27 of 39 winners, while Lajovic finished with 21 winners. “The forehand is his best weapon and it made the difference today,” Lajovic said. “I feel I did the best I could under the circumstances. He was the better player today.” Edmund was the highest ranked player in the two teams at No. 67.

Meanwhile, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga sent France into the Davis Cup semi-finals after beating Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic on Sunday to hand his team an unbeatable 3-1 lead in their quarter-final. On the hard court of the Werk Arena in Trinec, world number 10 Tsonga beat 50th-ranked Vesely 4-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4, 7-5 in three hours and 28 minutes. In their quest for a first Davis Cup title since 2001, France will now face either the United States or Croatia in the semifinals in September.

In a clash of the teams’ number-one players, the 23-year-old Vesely took the first set on a single break and both held on to their serves in the second, which went to Tsonga, 31, in a tie-break. A dominant Tsonga then broke Vesely’s serve for the first time to win the third. In the fourth set, Tsonga survived three break points in game six and broke again five games later to win the rubber and the tie.

“With the experience I have, I knew that even despite a poor start it’s not over, it goes on, the rubber is long,” Tsonga told reporters. “But I really had to work hard to win today.” “The game was extremely hard, he’s a very experienced player,” Vesely told Czech Television. “It’s harder to play when you’re 2-1 down, I gave it my best, I felt much better today than on Friday, maybe because I had absolutely nothing to lose. “I’m sorry about the second set, I played well and if I had managed to win maybe things would have been different, but it’s hard to tell.”

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