When thinking of sporting pinnacles we think of the Rugby and Football World Cups, The Ashes, Wimbledon, The Masters and the Olympics but as a nation we have been taken by the thought of success in the Davis Cup almost as little as winning the Eurovision song contest.
It’s not really hard to see why. The country is blessed with as little as one top 100 player in Andy Murray who often hasn’t been available, due to hectic scheduling in the tennis calendar. Without Murray we’ve been left with no experience or fire power. That was until five months ago when the British squad showed some true British grit against Russia and battled back from two rubbers to zero down to book a showdown with Croatia. Before this moment no one gave Britain a fighting chance but somehow, after five years of hitting against minnows like Luxembourg in the Euro/ Africa Zone Group 2, we are back within one match of the elite group.
Britain were gifted an away tie in Croatia, a nation known for previous tennis greats such as Goran Ivaniševic and Ivan Ljubicic and with a great history in the competition having won in 2005. The task for the British team has become easier after Croatia’s star player, Marin Cilic, pulled out after testing positive for a banned substance. That leaves Croatia fielding their weakest side in years, relying on the world number 35 Ivan Dodig to lead the team to victory. Having only one title to his name on his home surface of Zagreb in Croatia, Dodig, who is now 28, certainly doesn’t appear to pose any threat to Andy Murray. Croatia’s second choice of player is somewhat bewildering, deciding to opt for 16 year old reigning US open boys champion Borna Coric who has one match on the professional tour to his name.
In fact, the 16 year old is hardly brimming with confidence admitting “I don’t think I can win – only if he injures himself,” in relation to being asked about his chances against Murray. The talent he possesses is clear for everyone to see but anything other than a demolition by both Murray and Dan Evans would come as somewhat of a surprise. Britain’s second singles player is Evans, a man on a real high after claiming the scalps of Kei Nishikori and Bernard Tomic at the US Open, and he will certainly look to continue that form into this weekend.
In the doubles Britain are again the favourites with world number 18 Colin Fleming and former Wimbledon doubles champion Jonny Marray flying the flag. They will come up against Mate Pavic, another inexperienced 20 year old who has 12 doubles matches to his name in his whole career, and Dodig, who sits at world number 21 in the doubles rankings, with the weight of a nation on his shoulders. Murray must be relieved that he’s not in that position for a change.
Leon Smith Britain’s Davis cup captain was quoted as saying. “On paper it might appear we are the favourites but as we all know there are no easy matches.” However, it seems that if there is ever going to be an easy match to get back into the world group this is it. Croatia have opted to play on clay, Murray’s least favourite surface but having previously reached the French Semi Final he’s not exactly incompetent on the surface. In the last 12 years the only other time Croatia have been demoted from the world group was the defeat at the hands to Britain in 2007 and they will look to avenge that loss this weekend. Britain, however, are certainly favourites to return to the elite group of men’s tennis nations.
To get a slice of the action you can sign up to Eurosport for £5.99 and watch the tennis and other sports for a month. Commentary is also likely to be streamed live on the BBC. The schedule of play can be found at http://www.lta.org.uk/fans-major-events/Davis-Cup/Home along with build up to the match.
With Murray’s return to the squad and a shot at the top of the tennis world within our grasp this weekend is the most high profile weekend for the Great British tennis team for some time and it is certainly not to be missed.