By Ros Satar
- Dan Evans replaces Kyle Edmund who has a back niggle
- Winning records against both Japanese players but a lot of water under the bridge since then
BIRMINGHAM, UK – The weekend sees a mouth-watering tie to start Great Britain’s defence of the Davis Cup title, and the feeling in the camp is – why can’t they do it again?
Britwatch Tennis: Full Draws and Schedules
As we have seen with Roger Federer’s efforts in 2014 to fill one of the few gaps in his own trophy cabinet, Andy Murray truly did lead the British team to a famous victory, in an aircraft-hangar like space in Ghent. But could they do it again?
Murray, unlike Federer, is turning out again for GB in what is actually a tricky tie against Japan. With both Murray and Japan’s Kei Nishikori both well established at the top of the tour, and up until today, the second singles plavers Kyle Edmund and Taro Daniel separated by just four places, this was measuring up to be a tough one to call.
With Edmund now ruled out of the Davis Cup tie between Great Britain and Japan, Davis Cup stalwart Dan Evans joins Murray for their Davis Cup defence. At the Draw Ceremony, Aegon GB captain Leon Smith explained his rationale behind the decision.
“Kyle picked up an injury during Weds practice, so we stopped it immediately to try and give it as much time to settle down as possible. It was better this morning, but like a lot of these injuries, it felt like a bit of a race against time, therefore a risk to him and a risk to the team not able to complete matches obviously going in with an injury.
“We’ve got Dan now in the team who’s fully fit, plays well indoors, good Davis Cup experience and ready to go.”
Indeed Evans was one of the pivotal members of the team when GB were languishing in the doldrums of the Davis Cup, and was part of a turnaround in the tie against Russia, which saw GB come back from 0-2 down on the first day.
Evans, often seen as the bad boy of British Tennis has the talent, of that there is no doubt, but perhaps in the past his desire had not been quite there. In a Davis Cup environment, there is a large team around, everything is done for the players – the whole set up is far removed from a sparsely populated Challenger as you could get.
Evans had to overcome a knee injury, and since has been working his way steadily up the rankings, having been as low as 772 in the world last May. That he can climb 615 places in less than a year shows what a little dedication to the cause can achieve.
But as the man says, his famous win over Nishikori when he had a run to the third round of the US Open was ‘a long time ago’ and that he could not call to mind the match he once called the win of his career. In fairness though a lot has happened since then. Nishikori more than made up for that loss the following year by making the US Open whereas Evans lost in the first round of US Open qualification that year.
There is a lot to be said for home support. We saw first hand in Glasgow how the roof could be lifted with just the merest sight of the British team, and as defending champions fans will relish the chance to see them, especially with new father Andy Murray returning to the court for the first time since losing to Novak Djokovic in the final of Australian Open.
On the flip side of the coin, the delightfully laid back Taro Daniel described how he might feel when he faces Murray in the opening match on Friday. When asked what his favourite Led Zeppelin track was, he grinned ‘Dazed and Confused’ but said:
“I don’t think I’ll be too confused. Obviously I’ll be nervous but excited as well. I can expect a certain amount of noise but it’s going to be something I’ve never experienced before which is both scary but mostly exciting.”
Murray has never faced Daniel before but as always, the team does their homework.
He said: “I’ve seen him play a little bit before. We watched a short video of all the Japanese players, but I’ll watch some this afternoon and this evening. I know roughly how he plays.
“He’s quite tall compared with the other players on the team. He plays predominantly from the back of the court, sort of moves like the Spaniards, has spent a lot of time training over there, but we’ll watch a bit more tonight.”
Murray and Daniel start proceedings on Friday 1pm (GMT), followed by Evans v Nishikori.
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