FEARS over Andy Murray’s health were partially allayed as he took to the practice court on the eve of Great Britain’s Davis Cup quarter-final against Italy in Naples.
The British No 1 was laid low by a virus on Wednesday evening and was unable to attend the draw ceremony yesterday.
But GB captain Leon Smith remained hopeful his star player would be able to play in the first day of the tie today and Murray did make it to Tennis Club Napoli late in the afternoon.
The draw gave the Scot a bit of extra time to recover, with Murray scheduled to play the second singles match against Andreas Seppi.
And a poor weather forecast for the first two days of the tie could yet mean Murray does not have to take to the clay court until tomorrow.
James Ward will play the first singles rubber against Italian No 1 Fabio Fognini after being given the nod over the higher-ranked Dan Evans.
The Londoner’s selection was not a surprise given his stunning win over the USA’s Sam Querrey in February, which helped Britain to a first World Group victory in 28 years.
Evans dropped out of the four-man team altogether and was replaced with Ross Hutchins, leaving Smith’s options open for what could be a crucial doubles rubber tomorrow.
Plan A would have been for Murray to team up with fellow Scot Colin Fleming. However if it is felt that is too much for the Wimbledon champion, Hutchins will make his first Davis Cup appearance since his fight against cancer. Italy went into the tie as favourites even before news about Murray’s illness emerged.
Britain upset the US on clay but, in the absence of the injured John Isner, the surface ended up hampering the home side more than Smith’s team.
The Italian team, on the other hand, is very much at home on clay and in world No 13 Fognini they have one of the season’s strongest performers.
The talented but unpredictable 26-year-old already has an ATP Tour title and another final appearance on the surface in 2014 but is still affected by a thigh problem he suffered in his defeat by Rafael Nadal in Miami last week.
Seppi, ranked 34th, is a very different character, solid and reliable from the back of the court, and it is a big ask for Ward to upset either player.
Murray has struggled to rediscover top form this season after back surgery but one of his best weeks came in San Diego and the 26-year-old appears highly motivated to do well in the Davis Cup.
There were promising signs in Miami last week but his quarter-final loss to Novak Djokovic saw him drop to eighth in the rankings, his lowest spot since 2008.