GREAT Britain will play Russia in a Davis Cup Europe/Africa Zone Group I promotion clash next April after being handed a bye in the first round of the 2013 competition – and will be hoping US Open champion Andy Murray returns to the fold.
Leon Smith’s side was the only one of the seven unseeded nations to be given a first-round bye when the draw was held in London yesterday, but their reward was a tie against the top seeds. It will be a seventh straight match at home for Britain, who had won five successive ties to go from the verge of relegation to the lowest tier of Davis Cup to within sight of a return to the World Group, before losing to Belgium in April. That defeat, Smith’s first as captain, came without Murray, who has been an intermittent presence in the team over the past few years and did not play in either of the matches last year.
If Murray decides to miss the Russia tie as well, Britain would appear to have little chance of winning against a team relegated from the World Group this year and who were champions as recently as 2006. Russia have five players in the top 100, including world No 25 Mikhail Youzhny and Nikolay Davydenko, while James Ward is the British No 2 at 209. Dan Evans was Britain’s hero this year, beating two much-higher ranked players in the win over Slovakia in February, but he has failed to build on those results and is ranked 288th.
All of the last four ties have been played at Glasgow’s Braehead Arena and the Lawn Tennis Association will announce the venue for the Russia tie, to be played on 5-7 April, in due course.
The World Group draw was also made, and five-times champions Spain face a long journey to begin their 2013 Davis Cup campaign as they are to play Canada in the opening round.
“Canada was one of the strongest opponents we could have drawn, not only for the quality of the team led by Milos Raonic but also for the fact that we are the away team and only a week after the Australian Open,” Spain captain Alex Corretja said. “That means another long journey and all the effects of the change in time zone.”
Top seeds Spain have met Canada once before, at the same stage of the competition in 1991 when they won in Murcia.
The Czechs, who host Spain in this year’s final from 16-18 November, begin next year’s World Group campaign in Switzerland. They boast a 6-2 head-to-head record against the Swiss but lost the last time they played in Switzerland, in 1998.
This year’s losing semi-finalists, USA and Argentina, will start the 2013 campaign at home to Brazil and Germany respectively.
Serbia, Davis Cup champions in 2010, travel to Belgium.
Europe/Africa Zone Group I
First round: Russia, Great Britain, South Africa, Netherlands and Sweden all handed byes. Poland v Slovenia; Finland or Denmark v Romania; Ukraine v Slovak Republic
Second round: Great Britain v Russia
World group draw: Canada v Spain; Italy v Croatia; Belgium v Serbia; USA v Brazil; France v Israel; Argentina v Germany; Kazakhstan v Austria; Switzerland v Czech Republic.