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.”

News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
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.

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness