Great Britain’s Davis Cup team may have good memories of triumphing on clay away from home, but the odds are stacked against them on their trip to France in this year’s quarter-finals.
With world No1 Andy Murray injured Great Britain will be without their most potent weapon, responsible for 14 of their 20 singles victories since returning to the World Group in 2014, when the tie gets underway on the indoor clay courts of Rouen on Friday.
British hopes will be raised by the absence of French heavyweights Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon, but the home side still boast the highest-ranking player in the tie, in world No17 and clay specialist Lucas Pouille.
With France also possessing a strong doubles duo in Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who have won three out of their last four Davis Cup doubles matches, British hopes of progress to a third consecutive semi-final could rest on either Daniel Evans and Kyle Edmund producing an upset on clay against Pouille, as well as a far from routine victory over world No68 Jeremy Chardy.
Evans and Edmund, ranked world No44 and No47 respectively, both have winning records on clay and no shortage of history of upsetting the odds on the surface while playing on the Futures Tour.
Yet the last time Evans competed on clay was more than two years ago when he was ranked in the high hundreds.
The 26-year-old only has 16 career wins on clay to 10 losses, but none on the ATP Tour nor the ATP Challenger Tour.
Impressively, however, Evans has won half of the six occasions he has come up against a better-ranked player on the surface – a statistic that mirrors his 52 per cent career win ratio in matches when he has been the underdog.
Edmund, meanwhile, has far more experience on clay, with 92 career wins to 38 defeats.
Only nine of those wins have come against higher-ranked players, with just two in the last two years.
He carries an impressive career win ratio of 42.9 per cent as an underdog in clay matches, but similarly to Evans has struggled to overturn the odds since progressing to the ATP Tour.
Edmund can take inspiration from a more recent upset on a different surface — his progress against Pouille on Brisbane’s hard courts in January, albeit due to the Frenchman retiring in the second set.
Great Britain’s last two outings without Murray, against Canada in the first round of this year’s competition and against Serbia at this same stage last year, also made clear that this side can survive tough encounters without their favourite Scot.