Bogdanovic needs belief for play-off pay-off in Davis Cup

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The Independent Online

Alex Bogdanovic, who meets Jürgen Melzer here in today's opening rubber of Britain's Davis Cup tie against Austria, should be grateful to Patricio Cornejo. But for the 64-year-old Chilean, who lost all eight of his singles matches at Wimbledon, Bogdanovic would share with Russia's Andrei Chesnokov the worst record in the Open era at the All England Club. The British No 2 has been given wild cards for the last seven years and lost on each occasion, winning only three sets in the process.

When John Lloyd, Britain's captain, chose Wimbledon as the venue for this weekend's play-off, which will decide who stays in the elite World Group and who will be relegated, he said he was thinking as much about the opposition's ability on grass as his own team's.

While Austria's two singles players are hardly members of the "grass is for cows" brigade – Melzer (world No 41) won junior Wimbledon in 1999 and has made the third round twice, while Alexander Peya (No 164) reached the quarter-finals at Newport, Rhode Island, this summer – the surface is unlikely to bring the best out of them.

The British team, including Bogdanovic, are all comfortable on grass, but the record of their No 2 singles player on these courts is a concern. Andy Murray will be fancied to win his two singles matches, but with the established Austrian pairing of Melzer and Julian Knowle marginal favourites in the doubles (against any combination of Andy and Jamie Murray and Ross Hutchins), the tie could be decided by Sunday's final rubber between Bogdanovic, the world No 162, and Peya.

John Lloyd, Britain's captain, and Paul Annacone, the coach, are, nevertheless, eternal optimists. "It's all about the frame of mind," Lloyd said yesterday. "I have enough confidence in myself and Paul to get Alex in the right frame of mind, so that he will open up his shoulders and swing from the hip."

In the past nerves have often got the better of the 24-year-old, who has lost all four of his "live" Davis Cup rubbers. "He's happy that he's on first," Lloyd said. "He knows when he's playing. He knows he has his breakfast, he has his practice and then he's on, without having to wait for two hours and all the stuff that goes around it if he would have to wait.

"I don't like the phrase 'nothing to lose' because it's a cop-out, but if there was an instance where you could say that then it's here. No one expects him to win and if he plays like he has been in practice then Mr Melzer is going to have a very tough match tomorrow. We don't know how Melzer is going to play out there. Melzer's Davis Cup record is not particularly good. He keeps talking about Andy, but if he loses against Alex then that tie is over. Melzer's got pressure."

Andy Murray brushes aside any suggestion he might wobble under the weight of expectation on No 1 court. "There's so much pressure on me I don't know whether I'll be able to deal with it," he said in a deeply sarcastic tone yesterday. But Melzer, who went within two points of beating him at the US Open last month, appears determined to unsettle the Scot before they meet in the fourth rubber on Sunday.

"You can get under anyone's skin," Melzer said. "It's just a question of how much pressure is on his shoulders. If I can get into a position on Sunday when he's a set down with the score at 2-1 to Austria, I want to see how he copes. There will be 11,000 people expecting him to win."

Although Lloyd can change his doubles pairing up to an hour before the start of tomorrow's match, he has initially named Jamie Murray and Hutchins to take on Melzer and Knowle. "Ross and Jamie have been practising a lot and they're comfortable together," Lloyd said. "They make a good combination."

Order of play

(GB names first)

Today

(11.00): A Bogdanovic v J Melzer; A Murray v A Peya.

Tomorrow

(13.00): R Hutchins and J Murray v J Knowle and Melzer.

Sunday

(11.00): A Murray v Melzer; Bogdanovic v Peya.

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