Davis Cup chief names his squad for Ricoh showdown
[Coventry Telegraph, 27 March]
James Ward and Jamie Baker will lead Great Britain’s bid for victory against Russia in the Davis Cup at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena next weekend in the absence of Andy Murray.
The world No.3 has made himself unavailable for the tie on an indoor hard court as he prepares for the clay season, so captain Leon Smith has chosen the British numbers two and three for the Europe/Africa Zone Group One tie.
Ross Hutchins is also unavailable as he continues to undergo cancer treatment so his regular doubles partner, Colin Fleming, will team up with Wimbledon champion Jonny Marray.
The winner of the tie will go forward to a World Group play-off in September but, without Murray, it would take a major upset for that to be Britain.
Ward is ranked 208th with Baker a place behind, while Russia captain Shamil Tarpischev has named two top-100 players, Dmitry Tursunov and Evgeny Donskoy, in his side along with former top-35 player Igor Kunitsyn and 20-year-old Victor Baluda.
Scot Baker has been dogged by injury and returns to the side for the first time since Britain beat Tunisia in a Group Two tie two years ago.
The 26-year-old, who trained with good friend Murray in Miami over the winter, qualified for the main draw of the Australian Open in January but his only match wins since then have come at the third-tier Futures level.
Ward, also 26, climbed into the top 150 last season and reached the second round at Wimbledon but a broken wrist brought an early end to his year.
He has had some encouraging results this season, reaching a Challenger final in Australia, but he has never won a Davis Cup match in Group I.
Britain’s best chance looks to be in the doubles rubber. Fleming has won his last seven Davis Cup rubbers and has teamed up with Marray on the tour in Hutchins’ absence, although the latter’s recent hernia problem has limited their time together.
Smith said: “It’s great to have Jamie Baker back in the team after him starting the year so well in qualifying at the Australian Open in January.
“James Ward has done fantastically well to come back from a long-term injury sustained last year and brings a lot of Davis Cup experience to the team having played in six of the last seven ties for his country.
“Colin Fleming has had a great start to 2013 winning ATP titles in both Auckland and Marseille.
“In Jonny Marray we have the current Wimbledon doubles champion who also went on to reach the semi-finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the end of last year.
“We look forward to the challenge of competing against a very strong Russian side and, with the advantage of a home crowd supporting the team, we hope we can make life as difficult as possible for the opposition.”
In picking Ward and Baker, Smith has overlooked Dan Evans, who played in the last two ties and was the hero in Britain’s surprise win over Slovakia, where he beat two much higher ranked players.
The 22-year-old has failed to improve his ranking significantly, though, while Josh Goodall, who joined Evans for the defeat against Belgium last time out, has also been left out.
If Britain lose they will face a relegation play-off later in the year to avoid dropping back into Group II.
Who they face and when will be determined by the result of next weekend’s tie between South Africa and Poland.
A South Africa win would see Britain heading to Slovenia in September - a tie Murray has already committed to playing in - but a Poland win would necessitate an extra match between South Africa and Slovenia with the loser then hosting Britain in October.http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/coventry-warwickshire-sport/other-sport/2013/03/27/92746-33067314/