By Ros Satar & Niall Clarke
- Dan Evans replaces injured Kyle Edmund, but ousts James Ward as GB gear up to face Australia for a place in the Davis Cup semi-final
- Smith justifies decision based on Evans summer of Futures wins
- Andy Murray 0-0 Thanasi Kokkinakis; Dan Evans 1-0 Bernard Tomic
Glasgow, SCOTLAND – It was a tale of two very different press conferences, after the draw was made for the Davis Cup semi-final, as Great Britain prepare to face old adversaries Australia.
More tennis coverage: Full Draws and Schedules
While the British press conference was almost entirely focused on Leon Smith’s decision to include the World No. 300 Dan Evans in the side at the expense of James Ward, after a charmed run at Wimbledon, and Kyle Edmund who was almost certainly a shoe-in for the spot before he rolled his ankle in practice.
By contrast, although the Australians admitted to being a little surprised by the decision they looked by far the most relaxed team after the draw was made at the Emirates stadium on Thursday afternoon.
Andy Murray v Thanasi Kokkinakis
It will be the British number one who opens up proceedings on Friday when he faces 19 year old Thanasi Kokkinakis in the first rubber of the tie.
These two know each other well but have never faced each other in actual competition, something Murray touched upon in the post draw press conference.
“Yeah it will be a tough match obviously.” Murray said of the Kokkinakis challenge.
“I practiced with him a lot and have spent a lot of time watching him as well, and speaking to him. So I know for one of the younger guys, I know his game better than most.
“You know we have practiced together at the French Open and the US Open, we obviously played doubles together as well in Miami, so I know his game well and obviously it will be a tough match. But at the same time it’s a tough match-up for him as well, you know the atmosphere is going to be challenging for them as well, and that’s something that will hopefully give us a big boost.”
Kokkinakis faces an uphill challenge if he is to topple the world number three. A win would give the Aussies a huge chance of advancing to the final, in fact you would have to consider them favourites if he can pull off the upset.
But the young Aussie is focused and looking forward to the opportunity to face one of the world’s best in a front of a frantic Glasgow crowd.
“Yeah should be a great challenge up ahead, he’s a great player and to play him in his home ground in Glasgow will be a huge opportunity for me,” said the world number 72.
“I like the courts here, boys have been training really well, and it’s going to be a huge honour to play. Thank you guys for picking me again, and to play first up, I’ll be ready to go.”
Dan Evans v Bernard Tomic
It was the run of his life that has given Evans a chance to get back into the British team. Battling through qualifying, and beating Kei Nishikori and Bernard Tomic before bowing out in the third round to Tommy Robredo, it looked as though the mercurial talent of the Brummie was finally coming good.
He had already proved himself time and again as a stalwart in a pretty depleted, reborn British squad as Team GB was starting anew, without it’s talisman in Murray, and time and again Evans proved he could come up with the good where he often lacked that same drive on the tour.
Despite some perhaps ill-timed comments on twitter, and suffering from a young man’s desire to be hitting the town with his mates, rather than hitting the gym and travelling the world to play in Futures and Challengers in far flung places with probably no more than a handful of people watching.
Still he talks a good talk though when asked how he feels about facing his first Top 100 player in 15 months.
“Yeah. I think once you’ve played at this level, it’s always there. I feel ready to play. It’s a good opportunity anyway to be around all the guys again for a while, so I just came up and practiced and see things worked out a bit different.”
Murray, though, made it very clear that a lot would be expected of the brash Brummie.
“I think they’ll be nerves but I think he’ll handle them and yeah, he has a game that is different to the other players on our team. It’s not a game style that loads of guys on the tour play nowadays, and you know I think obviously he’s played against Tomic before, won against him, and he has a way of playing that will be tricky for Bernard on Friday.
“But Dan obviously has to play at a high level of tennis – that’s the reality. We’re playing against top players here and if we want to win, we ‘re all going to have to play extremely well, but I trust Leon’s decision and hopefully it pays off over the weekend.”
Tomic frankly recalled a match where he was very much in control before the Brit usurped him, and played down the evident surprise for the visitors seeing him included, where they would have likely prepared to face either Ward or Edmund.
“Honestly? I was up 6-1 3-0 and couldn’t make a ball after that, and that’s all I remember, It was a very windy day, it was tough, he was very confident at the moment and he beat Nishikori prior to me. So he was playing well, I had a chance, I was comfortable I was cruising, obviously he started playing more free, and he beat me so it’s not an easy match, it’s very tough for me.”
With Murray expected to give the home side the early momentum, it will be all eyes on Evans and indeed Smith as they try to put the visitors under real pressure with commanding wins on the first day
The Davis Cup semi-final between Great Britain and Australia starts at 1pm BST at the Emirates Stadium in Glasgow.