Davis Cup: Andy Murray stomach trouble stands in way of Italy upset

Scot was struck down by a bug on the eve of Davis Cup tie

tennis correspondent

Not much has gone Andy Murray’s way of late so perhaps it should have been no surprise when the Scot was struck down by a stomach bug on Thursday on the eve of Britain’s biggest Davis Cup tie for 28 years. Unless Murray’s entry into the fray is delayed by the weather – and rain is forecast for the next two days – the Scot will have to make a rapid recovery if Leon Smith’s team are to win their World Group quarter-final against Italy on clay in Naples.

“Andy’s got some sort of virus which has made him feel pretty poorly over the last 24 hours in particular,” Smith said. “It is important to give him a lot of rest and recovery. That’s why he didn’t attend the draw, to spend time with the doctor and stay at the hotel away from the rest of the group. Hopefully, he can be fit and play a big part in the weekend, which I’m sure he will. He’s a fighter and obviously desperate to play.”

Although Murray missed the formalities of Thursday's draw and did not train during the day, he had recovered sufficiently to take part in an evening practice session. That raised British hopes, as the world No 8 will surely need to be near his best to overcome Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi, ranked No 13 and No 34 in the world respectively. Fognini is one of the game’s most improved players, having won three clay-court titles in the last year – three more than Murray has won in his entire career.

The one bonus for Britain, particularly in view of the weather forecast, is that Murray and Seppi will not be first on court on Friday. That honour goes to Fognini and James Ward, who has been preferred to Dan Evans as the visiting team’s second singles player. The doubles will be played on Saturday and the reverse singles on Sunday, though the tie could finish as late as Tuesday if the weather intervenes.

Ward was one of the heroes of Britain’s first-round triumph on clay away to the United States, when his victory over Sam Querrey paved the way for the team’s first win in the World Group since 1986. However, the world No 161 would need to take another step up in class to repeat those heroics this weekend.

If Britain are to prevail their three wins would probably have to come from Murray’s two singles matches and the doubles. Ross Hutchins, just three months into his  comeback after a year’s absence while being treated for cancer, was on Thursday called into the squad in place of Evans. The doubles specialist is set to line up alongside his regular partner, Colin Fleming, though Murray could yet partner the latter.

The Italians have several possible permutations in the doubles. Simone Bolelli and Paolo Lorenzi are their nominated pair, but Bolelli and Fognini have reached two Grand Slam semi-finals together.

Fognini, nevertheless, may not be risked in the doubles as he goes into the tie having been troubled recently by a leg muscle problem, though he insists he is fit.

Murray’s latest setback follows a comeback from back surgery, the ending of his partnership with Ivan Lendl and a run of patchy results, leaving him on his lowest world ranking for six years. Clay, moreover, has always been a major challenge for the Scot, whose back problems have been aggravated in the past by playing on it.

The players have reported the surface at the  Tennis Club Napoli is less than perfect, with unpredictable bounces, though the  specially constructed 6,000-seat stadium is a spectacular venue. The seats on one side are in the colour and shape of a Union flag, which will go down well with the 700  British supporters who have made the trip.

Italy have beaten Britain 10 times in the last 11 meetings between the two countries, the most recent in 1984. The hosts will be attempting to reach their first World Group semi-final for 16 years, while Britain’s most recent appearance in the last four was in 1981, when they lost 5-0 away to Argentina. Britain’s last World Group quarter-final ended in a 4-1 victory for Australia at Wimbledon in 1986.

Corrado Barazzutti, Italy’s captain, described this weekend’s tie as “very balanced”. Smith saw his team as “slight underdogs” but added: “We have a great team. We have a Wimbledon champion at our disposal, which is amazing. I think we have a great chance of winning. If it’s been 33 years since we’ve been in the semis and 16 for Italy then I guess it’s our turn now, because we’ve been out longer.”

The reward for this weekend’s winners will be a semi-final in September, probably against Switzerland, who are favourites to beat Kazakhstan in Geneva. Britain would have home advantage against the Swiss, which could set up the mouth-watering possibility of Murray and company taking on Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka at Wimbledon.

It is all a far cry from the early days of Smith’s reign as captain. His first tie in the summer of 2010 was a play-off against Turkey, which Britain had to win to avoid being relegated for the first time to the Davis Cup’s fourth and bottom tier. Fleming and Ward both played in that tie. “It’s been an amazing team journey,” Fleming said on Thursday. “A lot of people have played a part in that.”

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week