Tennis: Britain host India in Davis Cup decider

GREG RUSEDSKI and Tim Henman will fancy their prospects of winning a place for Britain in the 16-strong Davis Cup World Group after being drawn at home against India in the qualifying round from 25-27 September. The tie is likely to be played on grass at either Eastbourne or Nottingham.

Home advantage is guaranteed, since Britain's last match against India, a 4-1 defeat in the 1992 World Group qualifying round, was played in New Delhi. Jeremy Bates, Neil Broad, Mark Petchey and Chris Wilkinson travelled to India, Britain having lost to France, the holders, in the first round of the World Group in Bayonne.

The sequence of defeats extended to six, culminating in demotion to Group Two of the Euro-African Zone in 1995, Britain's lowest position. The advent of Rusedski and Henman has improved the situation so dramatically that Britain's captain, David Lloyd, has spoken of the nation winning the trophy for the first time since 1936, the end of the Fred Perry era.

"This is no ordinary tie and it is essential that we win," Lloyd said. "Playing in the World Group is as different as playing football in the Premiership rather than the Football League."

Although world rankings tend to be counterbalanced by national pride in Davis Cup matches, Rusedski (No 5) and Henman (No 15) would appear to have a distinctly sharper edge than the Indians. The squad defeated by Italy on clay in Genoa last weekend comprised Leander Paes (No 130), Mahesh Bhupathi (No 247), Srinath Prahlad (No 571) and Fazaluddin Syed (No 807).

The semi-retired Boris Becker has spoken of returning to play at Wimbledon, where he made an emotional farewell to Grand Slam tennis last year. "There is a 99 per cent chance that I will not [play Wimbledon again]." Becker said. "That leaves one per cent..."

Becker, currently in charge of Germany's Davis Cup team, has had second thoughts following the 30-year-old Petr Korda's triumph at the Australian Open in January.

The holders, France, have dropped thir leading player, Mary Pierce, for the Fed Cup first round against Belgium in Ghent next weekend. Pierce, ranked No 7 in world, is playing on the US clay court circuit after overcoming shoulder problems to win the Paris Open in February. However, the French team captain, Yannick Noah, believes Pierce, will not have enough time to adapt to a faster surface.

DAVIS CUP World Group Qualifying Round (home nations named first, *denotes seeds): *Australia v Uzbekistan; *Brazil v Romania; *Czech Republic v South Africa; Israel v *France; *Great Britain v India; *Netherlands v Ecuador; Japan v *Russia; Argentina v *Slovak Republic. (matches to be played 25 to 27 September).