Britain set to give No 1 Court perfect Cup send-off

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Britain's last Davis Cup match, away to Ghana, took place within a national stadium featuring the following inscription: "To carry out a duty either for reward or to avoid punishment is the attitude of a lesser being. But to feel obliged to honour a duty in response to your conscience - that inner moral conviction - is the mark of a man.''

Nice as moral conviction is, Britain's men - who won that match 5-0 - will doubtless settle for a Ghanaian reputation as lesser beings as long as they earn the reward of a further victory in the Davis Cup match which they start against Egypt today.

On this occasion it is the setting, rather than any inscription, which is likely to prove inspirational - the weekend's matches will be the last competitive action on Wimbledon's No 1 court before it is demolished to make way for a new players' and media centre.

Victory will earn promotion to the Euro-African first division, one step away from the world group of the top 16 nations from which Britain has been absent since 1992.

Tim Henman, currently ranked No 33 in the world, returns to the fray after his 10-day lay-off following the groin injury he sustained in the fourth round of the US Open.

The 22-year-old from Oxford, who only picked up a racket again last Sunday, described himself as "thoroughly rested".

However, as a precaution, he has not been selected in the doubles alongside Neil Broad, with whom he won the Olympic silver medal. Britain's team captain, David Lloyd, said yesterday that at this stage he did not want to risk Henman sustaining a further injury through playing on all three days.

Mark Petchey, who won with Broad in Ghana, retains his place, although the teams have until an hour before each match to finalise their selections.

In today's opening singles matches, Henman faces an opponent ranked 489 places below him - 23-year-old Amr Ghoneim. Greg Rusedski will start the proceedings against Egypt's top man, Tamer El Sawy, a US-based player whose world ranking is a modest 174.

"We consider it an honour to be playing at Wimbledon," said El Sawy diplomatically. "Obviously on paper it is going to be very tough for us.''

It is not going to be that easy on grass either. But the Egyptians, whose most famous player, Ismail El Shafei, featured in the world's top 10 in the 1970s, have been models of politeness about being required to play on an unfamiliar surface.

Britain's team captain, David Lloyd, said yesterday: "It is very important that we win and win well. Another 5-0 win following the victory at Ghana a couple of months ago will send a warning flashing across the world that British tennis is on track towards the top again.''

The Americans, one feels, will hardly be quaking in their boots. But victory would mark a significant step forwards.

Both teams have had the opportunity to practise this week on the No 1 court, which will be full to its seven and a half thousand capacity today and on Sunday.

ORDER OF PLAY: Davis Cup Euro-Africa Group Two match between Great Britain and Egypt (GB names first): Today: (11.0): G Rusedski v T El Sawy, T Henman v A Ghoneim. Tomorrow (1.45): N Broad and M Petchey v El Sawy and Ghoneim. Sunday (11.0): Henman v El Sawy, Rusedski v Ghoneim.

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