Aljaz Bedene left in limbo as ITF delays decision

Jamie Murray and brother Andy have given their support to Bedene and would welcome him to the team. Picture: Getty
Jamie Murray and brother Andy have given their support to Bedene and would welcome him to the team. Picture: Getty
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MURRAY brothers want world No 45 in British team for Davis Cup final, but residency rules are contentious issue.

Andy and Jamie Murray want Aljaz Bedene in Great Britain’s Davis Cup team but the International Tennis Federation cannot make its mind up.

I really do trust (Smith) that he’ll make the right call. In the last five or six years he’s made a lot of big decisions and he’s got most of them right”

ANDY MURRAY

Yesterday, the ITF announced that Bedene’s application to represent Britain in the Davis Cup was being put on hold until March next year. It means that the Slovenian-born UK citizen will have waited more than 15 months for the ITF to make a pronouncement on the matter – and all he wants to do is play tennis for his country.

The ITF’s new rules, as of 1 January this year, dictate that no one can play for more than one country in the Davis Cup. But Bedene, pictured, started the application for eligibility to play for Britain under the old rules when players who changed nationalities could, after certain residency requirements had been fulfilled, represent their adopted country. Bedene argues that he should be judged under the old rules.

With the Davis Cup final just a week away, the matter had been brought into sharp focus – Britain wants to field its strongest squad against Belgium and as the world No 45, Bedene would be a considerable asset. Both Murray brothers have given their support to Bedene and would welcome him to the team. But the ITF have failed to make a decision, leaving the world No 45 in limbo.

Leon Smith had already announced his provisional team for the Davis Cup final before the ITF’s decision, or lack of it, was announced. As expected, Kyle Edmund and James Ward were picked as the second string singles options behind Andy Murray while Dom Inglot, the world No 23 in doubles, was named as the second doubles specialist behind Jamie Murray.

It will be up to Edmund and Ward to fight it out for selection for that No 2 singles spot and the 20-year-old Edmund has made a strong case in the past weeks. Although he has never played in a Davis Cup tie, he did win a clay court Challenger title in Buenos Aires last week and has broken into the world top 100 in the rankings (he is No 99 this week). Ward, though, is older and has more experience – he was the man who beat John Isner in Glasgow in the first round of Britain’s run back in March.

“James has the experience of playing in the big matches, which obviously counts for something,” Andy Murray said. “Kyle, I think, currently having won the tournament on clay, beat two Argentinians over there, he’ll be confident on the surface, which is important as well.

“Kyle obviously has shown that his potential is high. He’s in the top ten in the world in that age bracket for an 18- to 21-year-old. The future for him is bright. Whether he plays in this tie or not, he’s going to be a very important part of the team in the future.”

Picking the right man for the right day falls to Smith, although the captain is unlikely to do anything that would upset the younger Murray brother – when Andy Murray speaks, everyone tends to listen.

“There’s pros and cons, I think, for everyone [in the team],” Murray said. “But that’s what Leon is paid to do, is to make those decisions. I do really trust him, that he’ll make the right call, because he has the last five or six years. He’s made a lot of big decisions and he’s got most of them right.”

But Murray knows that it all comes down to him. He is the second best player in the world while his opposite number in the Belgium squad – Davis Goffin – is ranked No 16. Only a matter of days ago, Murray demolished Goffin 6-1, 6-0 at the BNP Paribas Paris Masters.

Murray, then, is expected to win every match he plays – and he is aiming to play on all three days of the tie. But the Davis Cup is a strange beast: with 12,000 Belgians cheering him on at the Flanders Expo in Ghent, Goffin is unlikely to be the listless, distracted opponent Murray faced in France. Over the final weekend, it will all come down to who can handle the pressure better.

“The important thing is that everyone is aware that we win together, lose together,” Murray said. “I’m happy to take as much pressure as needed.

“I don’t think if Kyle or James played against Goffin that people are expecting them to win. So the pressure is totally on Goffin in that match. The fifth rubber would be a bit different.

“But the pressure in that tie is on me and on Goffin. Whoever performs better out of the two of us will likely decide the outcome. So whoever gets picked as our number two player, their job is to give their best effort.

“In the tie against America, that’s what James did. In the tie against Australia, Dan Evans did that against Tomic. That’s all that everyone in the team wants from each other: is that we give our best effort. We might not win, but that’s all that we can do.”