Great Britain serve off their Davis Cup Finals bid on Wednesday as they take on the Netherlands in their first group match at the Caja Magica in Madrid.
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The Brits are bidding for their first title since 2015, when Andy Murray led the way as they ended their long title drought in the competition. That 2015 success was their first since 1936, and tenth overall.
Murray is again part of the 2019 squad in Madrid, having recovered from a career-threatening hip injury. It was less than 12 months ago that the former world No. 1 informed the world that he planned to retire at Wimbledon, even suggesting that the Australian Open could be his final tournament if his hip didn’t hold up well, but he has made a dramatic recovery after surgery, claiming a title in his most recent tournament in Antwerp in mid-September.
Despite his encouraging return from injury, Murray is still very much on the mend, and is naturally wary of putting too much burden on his body in Madrid this week.
“Playing five matches in five days, best of three sets, that’s obviously something we do regularly on the tour and I did it in Antwerp and felt OK at the end of that”, Murray said. “If I had been playing doubles the same day as some of those singles matches in Antwerp, I would have really struggled the following day”.
“So we just need to be mindful of that and think a little bit long term in this event.”
The great news for Murray and Great Britain is that captain Leon Smith has enough cover in his squad should he want to rotate his side. Dan Evans, at No. 42 in the world, is in Madrid as the British No. 1, while Kyle Edmund, who was an Australian Open semi-finalist last season and spent the latter half of the year inside the top-20, is also present in Madrid. Edmund was initially left out of the squad, having had a wretched run of form eight consecutive defeats and fallen out of the top 70, but he’s shown improved form of late and has earned a call up to the squad.
Both Evans and Edmund are higher ranked than Murray, who is 126th in the world, but the two-time Wimbledon champion brings plenty of experience to the table. Murray owns a 30-3 record in Davis Cup singles matches while Evans is 7-14 and Edmund is 3-5.
Will Smith opt for the more experienced Murray, or entrust Evans and Edmund with getting Britain off to a winning start? They square off against Netherlands on Monday.
The Dutch are led by Robin Haase, who has been as high as 49th in the world, but is currently ranked 163rd after a below par season during which he put together a 13-18 win-loss record.
Haase did his business for the Dutch on Tuesday, rallying to beat Alexander Bublik 7-5 3-6 7-6 and get his country back on level terms in the tie. Botic van der Zandschlup had earlier lost to Mikhail Kukushkin 6-2 6-2 in the first match of the tie. It came down to a deciding third rubber, which unfortunately went to the Kazakhs, with Bublik and Kukushkin edging Haase and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-4 7-6.
Apart from Haase, Rojer and van der Zandschlup, Netherlands can also call on Tallon Griekspoor and world No. 14 doubles player, Wesley Koolhof for the remainder of their stay in Madrid. Wednesday’s contest against Great Britain a must-win tie for the Dutch, as they would exit the tournament should they suffer a second successive defeat at the Finals.
The current British team are by no means a world-beating side on paper, with some question marks surrounding some of the key members of the squad, but with two top 100 players, Andy Murray and a very good doubles player in Jamie Murray in their ranks, they should have too much class for the Netherlands team.
Great Britain vs Netherlands is live from Madrid on Wednesday, 20 November from 10:00am GMT/ 11:00am local time