GREAT Britain’s bid to reach the last four of the Davis Cup for the first time since 1981 hung in the balance last night after Wimbledon champion Andy Murray was struck down with a stomach virus.
British hopes of overcoming Italy in Naples will depend on Murray winning at least his two singles matches, and captain Leon Smith would ideally also want the Scot available for tomorrow’s doubles rubber.
But the world No8 missed yesterday’s draw after being told to conserve energy as doctors attempted to get him fit enough to lead the team in the three-day tie, which starts today.
“Andy’s got some sort of virus which has made him feel pretty poorly over the last 24 hours in particular. It’s important to give him a lot of rest and recovery,” said Smith.
“That’s why he didn’t attend the draw – to spend time with the doctor and stay at the hotel away from the rest of the group. Hopefully he can be fit and play a big part in the weekend, which I’m sure he will. He’s a fighter and obviously desperate to play so looks like he will be okay.”
Murray’s last-minute illness is just one of several intriguing sub-plots to this landmark tie for both countries – Italy are seeking their first World Group semi-final for 16 years.
Britain’s other singles competitor will be James Ward, whose heroic performance earned Smith’s team victory over the United States earlier this year.
World No161 Ward’s selection comes at the expense of Dan Evans, who is ranked 31 places higher and this week declared he was confident he might be recalled. Instead he has been omitted entirely, with Ross Hutchins named in the four-man squad for the first time since the Londoner’s successful recovery from Hodgkins lymphoma.
Italy, meanwhile, have fitness concerns of their own, with world No13 Fabio Fognini, who is set to face Ward in today’s first clash, only recently over a thigh injury.
Murray, who emerged for a light practice session yesterday evening, is set to take to the clay later this afternoon, against world No34 Andreas Seppi, though there are fears that forecast thunderstorms will hit the tie and delay its conclusion until Monday.
WAY BACK WHEN
■ The last time Great Britain reached a Davis Cup World Group semi-final was in July 1981, with a last-eight victory over New Zealand
■ In the semi they met Argentina, but were thrashed 5-0 despite the South Americans using just two players, Guillermo Vilas and Jose Luis Clerc
■ Prince Charming by Adam and the Ants was UK No1 and footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic was being born when GB faced Argentina on 2-4 October 1981