It's Davis Cup quarter-final weekend around the world, with Great Britain against Italy likely to be a seminal weekend for whichever side triumphs. Wimbledon.com previews the action...
If Italy have been waiting 16 years since they last featured among the Davis Cup's top four, for Britain, it has been 33. Both teams will be vying to end those records over the weekend, as they face off in what is sure to be a rambunctious quarter-final encounter in Naples.
Italy host GB on clay in one of southern Italy's most famous cities, on a court that echoes Monte Carlo in the way it overlooks the Mediterranean. The Tennis Club Napoli's 6,000 seats have been painted in Italian and British colours, as well as the local Napoli flag's rather confusing yellow and red.
The British team, led by Leon Smith, are marshalled by Andy Murray, the Wimbledon champion, one of two of the Big Four playing in Davis Cup this weekend.
"It will be a good challenge playing on the clay in Italy," Murray said. "They have some very good clay court players with a passionate crowd behind them. It will be a tough weekend and the games will be tight, but it's great playing in big matches like this in the World Group."
"We have selected our top three singles players for the squad who between them have the most Davis Cup experience which is what we need for this tie," Smith said. "Obviously we are delighted that Andy is playing, and both Dan and James have enjoyed impressive Davis Cup wins over the last few years.
“We also have strong options in doubles. Andy and Colin have enjoyed success together before, having reached the final in Montreal last August and also winning their last Davis Cup doubles rubber against Croatia in September. Ross Hutchins could be brought into the final four depending on what options we feel are best for the tie. Both Colin and Ross also have a lot of Davis Cup experience between them."
Murray will be hoping for no ill-effects from a 24-hour virus when he faces world No.34 Andreas Seppi in the second rubber.
"It’s going to be a very difficult match," Seppi told DavisCup.com. "He’s a great player. The last matches I played against him, I always lost so I have to do better. I have to try and play my best game, very aggressive and hopefully I can beat him."
James Ward, who has produced several heroics for his country in Davis Cup, most recently defeating Sam Querrey in San Diego, will take on Fabio Fognini, Italy's No.1, and a natural showman, especially in these circumstances.
"I feel great," said Fognini. "I was a little bit tired, felt some pain in the legs, but now I feel much better. I have had more than one week to recover and hopefully Friday is going to go the right way."
Simone Bolelli and Paolo Lorenzi are due to face Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins in the doubles rubber on Saturday, followed by the reverse singles on Sunday.
The two teams last met in a World Group first round match in Telford, GB, in 1984, and it was this weekend's Italian captain, Corrado Barrazzuti, who won the deciding rubber.
"The match is very balanced," Barazzutti told DavisCup.com. "We play on clay courts, which is not the surface that maybe Great Britain like more. Andy Murray is the Wimbledon champion and he is one of the best players in the world so it will be a tough match. We need to play well."
Elsewhere in Davis Cup, Japan play Czech Republic in Tokyo, France face Germany in Nancy, and Switzerland play Kazakhstan in Geneva.
Follow all the action this weekend on DavisCup.com
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