Andy Murray has told his long-time mentor and friend Leon Smith, captain of the vibrant young Great Britain squad, that he hopes to play for him in the Davis Cup tie against Croatia in September – four days after the US Open.
If the world No2 reaches the final at Flushing Meadows to defend his title, he would have little time to recover after a fortnight of the toughest competition on a hard court before switching to clay, his least favourite surface. He would displace either Dan Evans or James Ward, who played the best tennis of their careers to seal a 3-2 win over Russia in Coventry last weekend.
That Euro/Africa Group Zone One win put Great Britain in the 16-team World Group play-offs and Wednesday's draw means they have to play Croatia away on the weekend of 13-15 September to get back into the top flight of the Davis Cup for the first time since 2008. Croatia have to announce a venue before 30 April.
Smith will be pleased to avoid Spain and Switzerland (even minus Roger Federer, who has not yet committed himself to the play-offs), and a home tie against Australia would have been a dream draw in a double-Ashes year. However Croatia, ranked 11th in the world, 19 places above Great Britain, are formidable opponents.
The world No11, Marin Cilic – who has lost eight out of nine matches against Murray on the tour but gave him nightmares at the US Open last year – will lead their challenge, supported by the world No54, Ivan Dodig, who lost his only meeting with the Scot. The pair played all five rubbers in a 3-2 defeat by Italy in round one of the World Group in February.
Smith will look to his crack doubles team of Jonny Marray and Colin Fleming to give them a banker win. Marray and Fleming were outstanding in a straight-sets win to stop a 3-0 defeat against Russia on Saturday before the concluding heroics of Ward and Evans in the reverse singles on Sunday.
"With Andy coming back it creates a lot more momentum," Smith said. "What should be interesting and important now is for the other singles players to make sure they go back to the day job over the coming months and use this [win] to get momentum going to bring their ranking up to the obvious level that it is.
"In Davis Cup anything can happen, so you need competition. The players love it. The team spirit counts for so much and because you know who you are playing you can prepare for it really well."
The last time Great Britain played Croatia they won 4-1 on the grass of Wimbledon in 2007, when Murray and his brother Jamie teamed up with Tim Henman in his last appearance for his country.
Murray's commitment has been the source of controversy and he last played in the competition in September 2011 when Great Britain beat Hungary to get back into the Europe/Africa Zone Group I.
Judy Murray, meanwhile, has lost Heather Watson to illness for the Federation Cup World Group II play-off in Argentina on 20 and 21 April. Her team of Laura Robson, Johanna Konta, Anne Keothavong and Elena Baltacha take on Paula Ormaechea, Maria Irigoyen, Florencia Molinero and Mailen Auroux.
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