BY JOHN ROBERTS
Having the nerve to defeat the likes of Michael Stich and Michael Chang on the ATP Tour is one thing; fending off lesser-known players in the Davis Cup is another. That is one of the reasons why Mark Petchey has been dropped for Britain's tie in Slovakia at the end of the month.
After considering Petchey's vulnerability when confronted with the particular pressure of playing for his country, the fact that the match in Bratislava is to be contested on clay convinced the captain, Bill Knight, that the 24-year-old from Essex was not the man for the job. "Basically, Mark's not a clay court player," Knight said.
Although Petchey recently defeated Alberto Berasategui, the French Open finalist, on a clay court in Mexico City, the altitude added speed to the flight of the balls, increasing the Briton's confidence on the slow surface.
Knight already had to plan without Jeremy Bates, who has risen to his best world ranking, No 55, since retiring from international team events, and Petchey, ranked No 113, is Great Britain's next highest-ranked player.
The squad offers a challenge to three players who may have considered their opportunities had passed - Chris Wilkinson, Danny Sapsford and Neil Broad, the South African-born doubles specialist - and to one, Tim Henman, who represents the best hope for the future.
Henman, who resumed his career in January after recovering from a broken ankle, is competing on clay courts in a satellite circuit in the United States. He is then scheduled to join Pete Sampras and Carlos Costa for an exhibition event in Spain.
Petchey's Davis Cup future will be in the hands of David Lloyd, who is due to succeed Knight for a tie against Egypt or Monaco on the Eastbourne grass in July. The result in Slovakia will decide whether Lloyd opens with a relegation play-off to avoid demotion to the Fourth Division (Euro/African Zone Group Three) or gets an opportunity to steer towards Group One in the campaign to rejoin the World Group.
GREAT BRITAIN DAVIS CUP TEAM (v Slovakia, Euro-Africa Group Two, Bratislava, 28-30 April): C Wilkinson (Hampshire), D Sapsford (Surrey), T Henman (Oxon), N Broad (unattached).