(Reuters) - Argentina substitute Leonardo Mayer ended Britain’s reign as Davis Cup champions with a 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 win over Dan Evans to secure an enthralling 3-2 triumph in the fifth rubber of their semi-final on Sunday.
Mayer, who unexpectedly replaced the in-form Juan Martin del Potro for the decider, propelled the South American nation into their first final since 2011 when they lost to Spain.
Andy Murray, whose defeat by Del Potro in a five-hour thriller in the opening singles on Friday left Britain facing an uphill task, had pulled the hosts level at 2-2 by beating Guido Pella 6-3 6-2 6-3 in Sunday’s first reverse singles.
Del Potro’s no-show in the final match had raised hopes that Britain could pull off a comeback victory after losing both of Friday’s singles clashes, especially since Evans is ranked 61 places above Mayer.
However, despite the boisterous support of the home crowd, world number 53 Evans could not prevent Argentina from reaching their fifth final in the men’s team competition as they seek their first Davis Cup crown.
Argentina will face Croatia, who beat France 3-2 in the other semi, in the Nov. 25-27 final.
“Leo has played very good Davis Cup matches before. He has that feeling in his body and even though he is out of the top 100 that is not his level,” Argentina captain Daniel Orsanic said courtside.
“He was a little nervous in the first set but when he found his rhythm he was on top all of the time.”
While Del Potro’s absence startled the crowd at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena, Orsanic said he knew Mayer would play the final match after 2009 U.S. Open champion Del Potro was a surprise inclusion in Saturday’s doubles encounter, which Argentina lost.
“We had to keep it to ourselves until the last moment so Great Britain were (left guessing) a little bit but we knew from last night that Mayer would play,” Orsanic said.
“I believe it will be an honor to play another final but today we will celebrate a semi-final victory.”
Despite four previous final appearances in 1981, 2006, 2008 and 2011, Argentina have never won the team competition.
Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Ken Ferris