'Braveheart' Murray relishes GB home draw

Brave hearts are what Jeremy Bates, Britain's Davis Cup captain, will need for a swift exit from the Euro-African zone when either Serbia & Montenegro or Israel visit these shores next April. They are due to meet in Tel Aviv in the first round next February. Britain are seeded, with a bye.

Glasgow is likely to be among the contenders to stage the tie, Britain's first at home after six away trips. Murray, who is guaranteed to break into the world's top 100 next Monday, is proud of his roots.

However, he has rapidly become assimilated in the world game and could not give a Billy Connolly where the match is held. "It doesn't make a difference to me where it's played," he said after last weekend's 5-0 whitewash by Switzerland in a World Group play-off in Geneva. "I'm playing for Britain and, wherever it is, it doesn't matter. We're going to get big support anywhere."

That has been assured by Murray's rise to national prominence in the wake of Tim Henman's decision to retire from Davis Cup.

The Scottish teenager, taking advantage of the seventh wild card of his rookie year, yesterday advanced to the quarter-finals of the Thailand Open in Bangkok. He plays Robby Ginepri, the American third seed, having defeated the fifth-seeded Robin Soderling, of Sweden, 7-6, 7-6, in the second round. That result means Murray will become only the fourth Briton in the past 10 years to be ranked in the top 100, after the Canadian-born Greg Rusedski, Henman and Martin Lee. Henman, the British No 1, whose highest world ranking was No 4, did not crack the top 100 until he was 20.

With double figures against his name, Murray will gain direct entry into the Australian Open next January. He received a wild card to make his Wimbledon debut in June, reaching the third round, and qualified for the US Open at the end of August, going on to win his opening match in the main draw.

In Bangkok, Murray gained his second win of the year against the Swiss George Bastl, whom he defeated in the first round at Wimbledon, and won a tight match against Soderling.

Murray, and the tall 21-year-old Swede, traded service breaks twice in the first set before Murray dominated the tie-break 7-3. Murray received treatment for a headache prior to the second set. Each player broke serve, Murray going on to win the tie-break 7-5.

"I wasn't feeling that great towards the end of the first set," Murray said. "But I took a time-out and got some medication from the doctor. I had a really sore head, I don't know why.

"I thought I played a clever match. I used my slice well and returned well. I could have served better and maybe attacked a little bit more, but it was a big match for me and I'm just happy to come through," Murray added.

He has every right to be pleased with the progress he has made since winning the US Open junior title in September last year. When he made his ATP Tour debut with a wild card for Barcelona in April this year, he was ranked 397th.

Ahead of his quarter-final against the 22-year-old Ginepri, who lost to Andre Agassi in the semi-finals at the US Open, Murray said: "He's played really well the last couple of months and he's got a lot of experience. I'm not expected to win, and I'll have to serve well to stay with him."

Davis Cup Draw

World Group

Croatia v Austria

Argentina v Sweden

Spain v Belarus

Australia v Switzerland

Germany v France

Netherlands v Russia

Romania v USA

Chile v Slovakia

Dates: 10-12 Feb, 2006: First round. 7-9 April: Quarter-finals. 22-24 Sept: Semi-finals and play-offs. 1-3 Dec: Final.

Europe/Africa Zone

Group I first round (10-12 Feb): Portugal v Luxembourg; Israel v Serbia & Montenegro. Second round (7-9 April): Czech Republic v Morocco; Ukraine v Belgium; Great Britain v Serbia & Montenegro or Israel; Portugal or Luxembourg v Italy.

Europe/Africa Zone

Group II first round (7-9 April): Zimbabwe v Norway; Greece v Macedonia; Finland v Ireland; Slovenia v Algeria; Egypt v Hungary; Cyprus v Bulgaria; Latvia v Poland; Georgia v South Africa.

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