Five years since Tim Henman, Andy and Jamie Murray and Jamie Baker pulled off a triumphant weekend for British tennis on No.1 Court at Wimbledon, Team GB have the chance to elevate themselves to the Davis Cup World Group again, ironically against the same foe, Croatia. Wimbledon.com examines how the September play-off tie could turn out...
The last time Britain found themselves in the elite 16-team world group of the Davis Cup, the paint on the new roof over Centre Court was barely dry. Five years on, Leon Smith’s team have the chance to get back into the top flight if they can win in Croatia in the play-off from 13th-15th September.
Interestingly, the last time the two countries met was at Wimbledon in 2007 when a Britain team made up of Andy Murray, Tim Henman (in his last Davis Cup tie and retirement outing), Jamie Murray and Jamie Baker ran out comfortable 4-1 winners.
The heroics of James Ward and Dan Evans in the 3-2 win over Russia in Coventry last weekend, not to mention the classy doubles win by Colin Fleming and Jonny Marray that gave the singles players the chance to rise to the occasion.
Considering that a trip to Spain – probably on clay against a team led by Rafael Nadal – was a possibility in Wednesday’s draw, pulling Croatia out of the hat has to go down as a good chance for Britain, even if captain Leon Smith was playing a straight bat, describing it as a tough draw.
Smith will know, though, that this is a golden opportunity for Britain to get back into the World Group. He will also know that to do so, not only will he surely need Andy Murray to play, but also for him to be fully fit. The world No 2 has already committed to playing in the tie, having missed the Russia clash, but the tie against Croatia comes the weekend after the US Open, where Murray defends his title.
Murray will doubtless expect to be involved in the final weekend in New York. The US Open final is scheduled for Monday and if, as has happened in each of the past four years, bad weather forces it into an additional day, it could be Thursday morning before he gets to Croatia, leaving him no time to adjust.
That said, a team that includes Murray would be confident of getting the better of a Croatia team that, world No.11 Marin Cilic apart, looks weaker than in recent years. Ivan Dodig, at No.54, is likely to play the second singles and their likely doubles pairing is nowhere near as good as Fleming and Marray, or indeed any combination of about four of Britain’s players, including Ross Hutchins and Jamie Murray.
Cilic’s stock has been rising steadily in the past 18 months but Murray boasts a strong 8-1 record against him so would be confident of getting the better of him once more.
If there is a spanner in the works, it could be the surface. Murray’s weakest surface is clay and while that might not suit Croatia’s top two players that well, it could be their best chance of success.
For Britain, though, it is an opportunity that few people thought they would have this year and if Murray is there, they will be confident of rejoining the elite.