By Ros Satar at the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid
- The Group E Team captains for Kazakhstan and the Netherlands see Great Britain as the favourites to qualify from the group – thanks to Andy Murray’s inclusion in the team.
MADRID, SPAIN – The Davis Cup Finals is underway at the Caja Magica in Spain, and Great Britain is in with a great chance of qualifying for the knock-out stages.
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The new format Davis Cup is here and is in a group with Kazakhstan and the Netherlands – who see them as the favourites for qualifying out of the group.
Great Britain, winners in 2015 and awarded a wildcard into this year’s inaugural finals have been drawn with Kazakhstan (first meeting against this nation) and the Netherlands (GB lead their head to head 3-0). Group E does not actually start until Wednesday morning and has two morning sessions before the knockout stages start on Thursday evening.
Kazakhstan got off to a winning start against the Netherlands on Tuesday morning, but team captain Dias Doskarayev realises that Andy Murray’s inclusion makes Team GB very dangerous indeed.
“Great Britain with and without Andy Murray is two different teams – he can have a huge impact in singles and doubles. This is the first time in Davis Cup that there is a group stage – it never happened before, and it’s going to be a totally different dynamic. Every point is going to matter, but at the same time, players that are on the court don’t need to think about having to fight for every point. They fight because they can change the momentum of a match, and they will fight to the end.
“It’s Davis Cup and anything is possible. We’re very excited as a team to be here for Kazakhstan, such a young country, to be one of the 18 teams in the Finals. It’s a huge buzz back in Kazakhstan, I can tell you, and with Andy playing for Great Britain, there’s an extra buzz. I’m proud of the team, they’ve done a great job to prepare for this opportunity, and anything is possible.
“This is Davis Cup, and why we love it. When you play for your country, you can play a level up, and see what will come.”
For the Netherlands, it feels now like an uphill task, and they too put GB front and centre in the group.
Team captain Paul Haarhuis said: “Rankings-wise we’re way behind, so we are the underdogs. But we’re here, and that’s the most important thing. And with this format we feel that we can do some damage – if someone doesn’t play their best and we play our best, I think we have a shot against every country, and that makes this competition very exciting.
“I don’t make Great Britain the favourites, they are the favourites. But it’s fantastic that even if they win the group, you can still go through to the knockout stage being No.2. That’s not our goal though, to be No.2 – it is our goal to go to the next stage, but not at the No.2.
“It’s a fantastic way for two teams to get this opportunity, and it’s why every point counts. It’s very important to be focused on every point, on every set and every match, and it will be interesting to see how that evolves next week.”
Leon Smith led the team to victory in 2015, but sees this as a new opportunity, especially with the inclusion of Murray in the team, but with Kyle Edmund nabbing the final spot and challenging the No. 1 player spot with Dan Evans, there are also options with the Murray brothers potentially teaming up in the doubles, although Jamie Murray’s regular tour partner Neal Skupski makes his Davis Cup debut.
Smith said: “With the format now it’s a very open competition. I think when people look at this group, all three teams will think they’ve got an opportunity to do something. We’ve got a really good squad and had to make some tough decisions before coming here. The courts are getting faster every day, and the balls are moving quickly here.
“We’re very lucky to have three very good singles players and very good doubles options. I’ve got a few things to ponder over the next couple of days, but it’s a good situation to be in. It’s not that long ago where it wasn’t like this, but the guys all stepped up – and that’s why we pay so much respect to any opposition, because we were in that position not so long ago.”
The team have been preparing well both at the National Tennis Centre and Roehampton before coming out to Madrid to get used to the courts.
Smith continued: “There’s confidence, but there’s no ego with Andy. If you turn back the clock to Australian Open time, there were a lot of people who thought that would be his last appearance on a match court. There was a huge amount of warmth towards him then, and now to see him back on the tour, everyone is just so pleased to see him back.
“Whatever will be will be. It’s tough matches. In this format we might be favourite – I’ve heard that a lot now, there’s a lot riding on this – but it just doesn’t work like that. I’ve seen it too many times before. Upsets happen. So we’ll just go out and fight. We’ve got good quality, hopefully that will come through.”
GB start their campaign on Wednesday 20 November with play starting at 11am (10am GMT).
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How to watch the Davis Cup Finals
|Eurosport 1/Eurosport Player
|Monday 18 November||3pm – 9pm|
|Tuesday 19-Saturday 23 November||10am – 11pm|
|Sunday 24 November||3pm – 9pm|
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