A tearful Leonardo Mayer fired Argentina into the Davis Cup final on Sunday after his victory over Dan Evans handed his side a 3-2 victory over holders Great Britain.
The 29-year-old, a late replacement for Juan Martin del Potro, secured Argentina’s place in their first final since 2011 with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win to clinch the best-of-five tie.
Argentina, who have been finalists four times in the past 10 years, will attempt to win their first Davis Cup when they travel to Croatia from 25-27 November.
Croatia, the 2005 champions, booked their berth in the final with a 3-2 win over France in Zadar.
Mayer’s victory, his 11th in 14 Davis Cup singles rubbers, ends Britain’s hopes of retaining the trophy they won for the first time in 79 years with a win over Belgium last year.
It also justified captain Daniel Orsanic’s decision to rest 27-year-old del Potro.
The hopes of the holders had been on Evans, picked ahead of Kyle Edmund who lost his singles rubber on Friday, after Andy Murray hauled Britain level in the tie with a straight sets victory over Guido Pella in the first reverse singles on Sunday.
The world No 1s hadn’t defeated Argentina in 88 years but their hopes of ending that run were boosted before Evans took to the court following the news that he would be facing Mayer instead of Del Potro.
However, Del Potro, still feeling his way back after a series of wrist injuries pushed him to the brink of retirement, decided not to play in the match after featuring in the doubles on Saturday due to concerns for his health following a punishing summer schedule.
Evans, who has two decisive rubbers among his four Davis Cup singles wins, gave the home crowd something to cheer early on as he claimed an early break of serve on his way to winning the first set.
However, the British player had no answer to the Mayer serve in the second set as he landed 17 of 18 of his first serves with the Argentine also twice breaking Evans to secure the set 6-3.
Mayer, who in June last year was ranked 21 in the world, showed his experience in the third set as he immediately broke in the first game.
Evans’s hopes were then dashed as the Argentine repeated the feat in the fifth to canter to a 6-2 victory.
The 26-year-old put up a greater fight in the fourth set but the crucial moment came in the fifth game as Mayer broke the Evans serve before serving to take the set 6-4.
Earlier in the day Murray had offered Britain hope with a comprehensive defeat of Pella.
Murray, who partnered his big brother Jamie to doubles success on Saturday, made light work of Pella to claim his 30th win from 33 Davis Cup singles matches in just over two hours.
The world No 2, who had played over eight hours of tennis over the previous two days, had to leave the court for a medical timeout in the third set but returned to wrap up a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 victory.
It gave Britain hope of pulling off a repeat of their win over Russia in Coventry in April 2013 when they came back from 2-0 down to win the tie 3-2.
“I have a lot of sharp pain in my right quad. I have to go and see what’s up and get some treatment,” Murray said.
“I need a break. I have played so much tennis, my body needs some rest.”