Jamie inspires GB victory but Andy's fitness in doubt
Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski were Great Britain's Davis Cup heroes once again as a team missing Andy Murray defeated Kazakhstan to set up a quarter-final against Germany today.
Andy Murray ground out a dramatic victory over Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor in nearly three hours in Madrid on Wednesday but was far from his best, and he admitted afterwards that he was carrying extra weight and was not feeling good about his game.
Captain Leon Smith decided to leave him out for this one, with Kyle Edmund stepping in and stepping up with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Mikhail Kukushkin that was arguably his best performance of the season.
That gave Dan Evans the chance to send Britain through but, as against Dutchman Robin Haase on Wednesday, he was unable to build on a positive start against Alexander Bublik and fell to a 5-7 6-4 6-1 defeat.
With Britain unable to claim one of the two spots reserved for best-placed runners-up because of the number of sets they had lost, it was all or nothing for Jamie Murray and Skupski against Bublik and Kukushkin.
And the British pair, who had excelled against the Netherlands, produced another brilliant performance, showing the value of having a top doubles team in a 6-1 6-4 victory.
Smith and his players can now look forward to a last-eight tie against Germany that, on paper, appears very tight.
There will be plenty to mull over selection-wise for the Scot. Edmund has surely booked his spot in the side along with the doubles pair, leaving Smith to decide whether to recall Andy Murray.
Smith admitted there will be no miracle return to peak fitness, saying: "It's not going to change huge amounts. But it's important after five weeks of not playing any competitive tennis that you play a match.
"It wasn't his ideal match at all, but it was a match nonetheless, and that gets you going again. And Andy is not going to be difficult to get recalling on what needs to be done.
"It's probably quite a good thing it's a later start. We can talk about it, see how things are going, obviously do some practice, see how things feel, and then we can make a decision."
Germany do not possess any star names but have two strong singles options in the hugely-experienced Philipp Kohlschreiber and fast-rising Jan-Lennard Struff, while doubles pair Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies are the French Open champions.
Jamie Murray said: "We're really excited to be playing them in the quarter-finals. I don't think our guys will hold any fear to play them, and likewise. I think it's going to be a very evenly-matched tie."
Edmund has had a poor season, dropping from inside the top-20 to 69th in the world rankings, and only clinched his spot in the team at the last minute by virtue of a decent run at the Paris Masters.
But he produced an almost flawless display against a player ranked two places higher, striking his big ground strokes with authority, serving very well and hanging tough under pressure.
Edmund said: "I had a good feeling about how I've been going about my practice this week and my performance on court."
A brilliant season has carried Evans to the British No.1 spot, but the 29-year-old appears to have hit the wall a little bit over the last month or two and has lacked energy this week.
Provided Andy Murray is fit, it seems very likely Evans will not play against Germany.
Evans said: "I've obviously had two tough days. It's disappointing."
Asked about Britain's strength in depth, Evans said with a wry smile: "At the minute, the No.1 guy is the weak one."