Bates backing 'team of the future' to win

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The Independent Online

Jeremy Bates, the British captain, described the four players alongside him as "a team of the future" as he looked ahead to this weekend's Davis Cup tie against Israel on grass at Devonshire Park.

In a seaside resort where Ken Dodd, Des O'Connor and Jimmy Tarbuck are the main summer attractions age is always a relative thing, but Bates was presumably referring to Andy Murray, 19, and Alex Bogdanovic, 22, rather than the two other members of his squad. Jamie Delgado, whose world singles ranking has declined from 121 to 437, is aged 29, while 24-year-old Alan Mackin, who has slipped from a career-best 213 to 369, has even been talking about retirement.

With Greg Rusedski (unavailable due to injury) approaching the end of his career and Tim Henman in Davis Cup retirement, Murray is already the cornerstone of Britain's team.

This tie is a timely reminder of the progress he has made since his debut against Israel in Tel Aviv in March last year. Then ranked No 530 in the world, Murray partnered David Sherwood to a doubles victory over Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram, one of the world's leading pairs, as Britain won a thrilling tie 3-2. In the 16 months since, Murray has climbed to No 35 in the world, shone twice at Wimbledon and won his first ATP tournament.

Murray faces Ram in this afternoon's second singles rubber. The 26-year-old is ranked No 662 in singles, having concentrated on doubles since 2003. He is the reigning Wimbledon mixed doubles champion.

Ram and Erlich, ranked No 6 in the world, will be clear favourites to win tomorrow's doubles. With Britain needing to win to avoid going into a play-off against Ukraine to decide who will be relegated from the Europe-Africa Zone into the Davis Cup's third division, much could hinge on Bogdanovic's opening rubber against Noam Okun.

On grass the British left-hander should beat an opponent ranked 132 places beneath him at No 270. However, Bogdanovic lost in straight sets to Okun in last year's match and admits it took him a long time to recover from the defeat.

Murray said he was enjoying his first visit to Eastbourne. Did the age of the local population make him feel young? "When I look at all you guys I do," Murray said as he fielded reporters' questions.

Davis Cup Euro Africa Group One, Great Britain v Israel (Devonshire Park, Eastbourne): Today (British players first): A Bogdanovic v N Okun; A Murray v A Ram. Tomorrow: Murray and J Delgado v Ram and J Erlich. Sunday: reverse singles.

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