Great Britain return to Davis Cup action in the crucial World Group playoffs against Croatia this week. Victory holds great reward for two sides that are looking to gain momentum after contrasting build-ups to this intriguing clash.
When: Sept. 13 to Sept. 15
Where: Stadion Stella Maris, Umag, Croatia
How to Watch: Eurosport
Team GB have racked up considerable individual achievements in recent months with Andy Murray’s Wimbledon triumph and Dan Evans’ surprise run into the third round of the U.S. Open. Can the pair lead Great Britain back to the group stage and send Croatia toward relegation?
Let’s take a look at both sides recent form, news and prospects for the upcoming battle.
Great Britain Team News
Murray’s U.S. Open disappointment could be a godsend for Great Britain’s chances in this contest. The emotional Scot’s 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 quarter-final loss to Stanislas Wawrinka came in convincing fashion and highlighted an individual who has struggled to follow his Wimbledon win with consistent quality.
Although the pressure of defending his Flushing Meadows title may have gotten the best of Britain’s No. 1, Murray has been afforded much-needed rest in the build-up to the Davis Cup fixture.
In contrasting style, the recent form of Evans will have British fans cartwheeling with anticipation to see the 23-year-old once more. As reported by BBC Sport, U.S. Open wins against 11th seed Kei Nishikori and world No. 52 Bernard Tomic saw the youngster earn £60,000 in prize money before rising into the top 150 for the first time.
Doubles specialist Colin Fleming continues to climb the rankings and has worked diligently to improve his position this season. As reported by Mike Pattenden of the Telegraph, Fleming is in a joyous mood ahead of the trip to Croatia:
I’m now inside the top 20 – the highest I’ve ever been – so from that perspective it’s been a great year. I’m at a career peak to-date but it’s also been a bit up and down. I had some disappointments but they’ve been lifted by some big results.
Fleming and Murray teamed up to reach the Rogers Cup final in Montreal and will be buoyed to spend time in each other’s company once more.
Similar to Murray, British No. 2 James Ward suffered a disappointing defeat at the U.S. Open. He failed to qualify for the main draw and must quickly return to form with a strong showing against the Croats, if he's selected.
Croatia Team News
Times are tough for the Croatian team. As reported by Sky Sports, the squad is in major transition after Ivo Karlovic’s decision to drop international team tennis from his schedule:
With Ivo Karlovic refusing to go back on his decision to retire from Davis Cup service last year, Croatia will be relying heavily on 35th-ranked Ivan Dodig who is supported by Antonio Veic, yet to win a tour-level match all season, and the inexperienced duo of 20-year-old Mate Pavic and Britain-based 16-year-old Borna Coric.
While Ivan Dodig should be confident of his skills and will certainly pose problems for the British contingent, other threats are undeveloped and simply included to make up the numbers. Most notably, youngsters such as Mate Pavic and Borna Coric cannot be expected to compete with a British side that flaunts improving talent.
Coric has never played a five-set match and has already ruled himself out of beating Murray if selected, as quoted by BBC Sport: "I don't think I can win - only if he injures himself."
The 16-year-old may possess a British coach in Ryan Jones, but he cannot be expected to gain anything aside from valuable experience in front of his own fans. A touching tale for sure, but not one that will excite Croatians who are looking to upset the visitors.
Britain won the last meeting between these two nations 4-1 and travel to Croatia with a boost of firepower in the shape of Murray. An inexperienced home side will undoubtedly struggle for consistency and will largely run on raw potential, aside from Dodig.
Expect another large victory for Team GB.