Five successive defeats have left Britain on the brink of relegation to the Davis Cup's lowest tier for the first time, but there was a quiet confidence about Leon Smith's team as they made their final preparations yesterday for this weekend's tie against Turkey on the grass courts at Eastbourne's Devonshire Park. The losers will drop down to Europe Africa Zone Group Three, alongside the likes of San Marino, Armenia and Malta, but Britain have the advantage of playing at home on the surface of their choice.
Jamie Baker (the world No 253) plays today's opening rubber against Ergun Zorlu (No 866), a 25-year-old student who, like his doubles compatriot Haluk Akkoyun, rarely competes outside Turkey and has never played on grass before. In the second match James Ward (No 301) faces a higher-ranked opponent in Marsel Ilhan (No 103), but the Briton has beaten him twice this year and returns to a venue where he enjoyed his best performance only last month, beating Feliciano Lopez (No 30) and Rainer Schüttler (No 72) en route to the quarter-finals of the Aegon International.
Baker, who has been rebuilding his career after a serious blood disorder, was Britain's only winner in their last World Group match away to Argentina two years ago. "I look forward to these matches way more than any other individual matches," he said. "Even at Wimbledon a couple of weeks ago I was looking forward to this more." Ward, who won one singles rubber in the humiliating defeat to Lithuania in March, has also been working his way back, having missed the last three months of last year with glandular fever.
Schedule (GB names first):
Today (12.0): J Baker v E Zorlu, J Ward v M Ilhan.
Tomorrow (2pm): C Fleming and K Skupski v Ilhan and H Akkoyun.
Sunday (12.0): Baker v Ilhan, Ward v Zorlu.