Cameron Norrie needs a shock win over Novak Djokovic to keep alive Great Britain’s hopes of beating Serbia and reaching the Davis Cup semi-finals.
Britain trail 1-0 in the best-of-three tie after Jack Draper lost 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (8-6) to Miomir Kecmanovic.
Norrie faces 24-time major champion Djokovic in the second singles match.
If Norrie does earn a first career win over the world number one, the doubles match will decide which nation plays in the last four on Saturday.
“It’s difficult knowing that Cam has to go and play Djokovic after, and that’s seemingly a must-win match for me,” Draper said.
“I’ll back Cam but it’s definitely a tough challenge to go out there knowing that there is a lot more pressure on me to win the match.
“That’s the kind of pressure that if I want to be a top player, I have to cope with and perform under. It’s tough not to get the win today.”
Britain, who last won the men’s team event in 2015, or Serbia will face Italy in the semi-finals after Jannik Sinner inspired them to victory over the Netherlands earlier on Thursday.
Draper edged out in decisive moments in vital opener
Considered one of the rising stars of the ATP Tour, Draper is still a novice in Davis Cup terms.
But the 21-year-old left-hander had been thrust into the pressurised situation of knowing he would likely have to win his singles match if Britain were going to advance – barring Norrie inflicting a first Davis Cup singles defeat in 12 years on Djokovic.
Following injuries to Dan Evans and Andy Murray, Draper was the natural choice to open the tie against Serbia even though he only made his playing debut in September’s round-robin stage.
Possessing a thunderous serve and clinical forehand from the baseline, Draper is ranked 60th in the world on the back of strong form in recent weeks.
Injuries ruined his first eight months of the season, but a run of 17 wins from his 21 previous matches going into the Davis Cup tie left him feeling confident in his body and mind.
There was little to choose between Draper and 55th-ranked Kecmanovic – but it was the Serb who executed better in the crucial moments.
An opening set full of hard-hitting and intense rallies showcased the power of the pair, with Draper holding off two break points at 3-4 and two set points at 4-5.
That led to a tie-break where two double faults by Draper – for 2-0 and 5-2 respectively – proved costly.
Kecmanovic, 24, served out the set – much to the delight of the vocal Serbian contingent – but it was a bitter blow for Draper, who had played well in a hour-long opener without being able to penetrate his opponent’s superb serve.
The second set followed a similar pattern, without Draper facing the pressure he did in the opening set.
A nervy start to the tie-break saw the Briton trail 5-2, but Kecmanovic could not capitalise before Draper saved a match point with a composed volley which clipped the sideline.
But a wide forehand – after which Draper threatened to smash his racquet into the court – set up another chance for Kecmanovic, which he took after landing another first serve.
“I wouldn’t say I returned amazingly well today, but when I did get the return back it seemed like he had the answer most of the time,” Draper said.
“His tennis level at times is, I think, top 10 in the world. He doesn’t miss many balls. His ball speed is good off both sides, very consistent.”