Great Britain's hopes of returning to the Davis Cup World Group have been dealt a significant blow by the absence of Andy Murray for next month's clash with Belgium in Glasgow.
Victory at Braehead Arena over Easter weekend would send Leon Smith's team through to a World Group play-off in September, but they will be big underdogs for the Europe/Africa Zone second round match.
Belgium's singles players Olivier Rochus and Steve Darcis are ranked 52nd and 68th respectively, well ahead of Britain's James Ward (162) and Dan Evans (291), and the only rubber the hosts will be favourites to win will be the doubles, where Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins should prevail.
Speaking about the Davis Cup in Indian Wells, Murray hinted he was unlikely to play, particularly if he performed well in this week's Masters tournament in Miami, where he is through to the fourth round.
The tie comes at a difficult time for the world number four in the key transition period between hard-court and clay-court stretches of the season, and he is keen to stay in the US and work with coach Ivan Lendl.
However, Britain can take encouragement from their previous tie against Slovakia in February, which Murray missed citing post-Australian Open niggles.
Again the rankings were not in the hosts' favour, but Evans proved an unlikely hero by winning both his singles matches, including a crucial five-setter against Martin Klizan in the deciding rubber.
Belgium are certainly a step up again, but Smith is optimistic his team can rise to the occasion
The Scot said: "After the last win against Slovakia the team were on a real high, but we are now fully focused on preparing for the tie against Belgium, who we know will provide an altogether new challenge.
"It will be a real step up against an opposition who is higher ranked than us, but if the team can put on some fine performances as they did against Slovakia, then we have a real chance of qualifying for the World Group play-offs.
"We will give it absolutely everything and, with the home crowd support behind us, we are very much looking forward to a hugely exciting tie."
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