Britain prosper as court No 1 is put to rest

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The Independent Online
All the formalities were observed at Wimbledon yesterday as Britain, already unassailable in their Davis Cup match against Egypt, completed a 5-0 rout on the No 1 court before officials conducted a touching ceremony to mark the passing of one of the most famous arenas in the sport.

After Greg Rusedski, Britain's naturalised Canadian, completed both the match and the No 1 Court's 72-year-old competitive history with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Amr Ghoneim, the net was handed over to the Wimbledon Museum for posterity.

As the huge white cranes and men in hard hats complete work on the new No 1 Court complex a few hundred yards away, the intimate, steep-sided old court awaits the bulldozers.

Egypt's Davis Cup challenge in this Europe-African Group Two play-off, never likely to succeed in a September fixture on an unfamiliar surface, was demolished on Saturday when Neil Broad and Mark Petchey put Britain 3-0 up against Ghoneim and Tamer El Sawy.

Yesterday Rusedski and Tim Henman reduced it to rubble by winning the two dead singles matches remaining. They thus rubber-stamped Britain's promotion to Group One next season, where they have the opportunity to play-off for a place in the world group of the top 16 nations - somewhere Britain have not been for four years.

Henman had the harder task. He lost the first set to El Sawy before completing a rain-interrupted 6-7, 6-2, 6-2 victory. "It's been a brilliant occasion," Britain's No 1 said. The 22-year-old negotiated this Davis Cup challenge with aplomb, save for one moment on the second point of his opening match on Friday, when he slipped on the baseline. David Lloyd, Britain's non-playing captain, admitted his heart was in his mouth at that point. But the alarm was soon over.

Lloyd had a reason to relish the win. In May 1974, he and his brother John formed the side for Britain's only previous Davis Cup tie against Egypt and were beaten 5-0 on the clay courts of Cairo. Lloyd said that it was unlikely Britain would be able to play on grass again when their Group One matches begin next April. But he added: "We do feel confident that we can make it into the premier group." Certainly the talent, and esprit de corps, appear to be in place.

DAVIS CUP EURO-AFRICA ZONE Second division (Wimbledon): G Rusedski (GB) bt T El Sawy (Egypt) 6-2 6-4 7-5; T Henman (GB) bt A Ghoneim (Egypt) 6- 0 6-4 7-5; N Broad and M Petchey (GB) bt T El Sawy and A Ghoneim (Egypt) 3-6 6-4 6-3 6-4; Henman bt El Sawy 6-7 6-2 6-2; Rusedski bt Ghoneim 6- 4 6-2. Great Britain win 5-0.