Federer has to take break from fatigue in Davis Cup

Why will Ivo Heuberger, Marco Chiudinelli, Yves Allegro and Stanislas Wawrinka be in the spotlight next week? Because they will be filling a hole left by Roger Federer in Switzerland's Davis Cup team for their World Group first-round tie at home to the Netherlands in Fribourg.

The Wimbledon champion and world No 1 has decided he needs to take a break from the Davis Cup, though, unlike the 30-year-old Tim Henman, Federer, 23, has not declared his permanent retirement from the competition.

Yesterday, watching Federer - the defending champion - struggle to overcome Ivo Minar of the Czech Republic in the opening round of the Dubai Duty Free Open, it was clear that the sublime one's batteries need recharging. He was fortunate to escape with a 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 win against a 20-year-oldranked No 119 in the world, whose strength of desire was matched by a potent serve and thumping ground strokes.

It was the second time in four days that Federer had recovered from being a set down. Last Sunday in Rotterdam, he edged out Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia, 7-6 in the third set, to secure his 15th consecutive victory in a final. Ljubicic led 4-2 in the tie-break before Federer prevailed, 7-5.

Yesterday, Minar drove a backhand into the net on a break point that would have given him a 4-1 lead in the final set. He also managed to break Federer as the Swiss player served for the match at 5-3, and led 4-3 in the tie-break, which Federer won 7-5. "I didn't have the rhythm," Federer said. "Like last Sunday in Rotterdam, it was a very close match." Andre Agassi's admirers, who again packed centre court, enjoyed a stress-free evening as he advanced to the quarter-finals by defeating Feliciano Lopez of Spain, 6-1, 6-3.

Life without Henman starts for Britain with the Euro/African Zone first-round tie in Israel next week, when Arvind Parmar, David Sherwood, Andrew Murray and Alex Bogdanovic will be Greg Rusedski's support group.

Henman, who saved a match point before edging past Rusedski in the first round here on Tuesday, gave his thoughts on his prospective successors. Murray, the 17-year-old US Open junior champion, seems to have recovered from a back problem related to teenage growing pains. But how difficult is it to decide if a player is ready to withstand the demands of representing his country?

"Who knows?" said Henman. "You don't know, but you hope you're going to give them the opportunity. Sometimes people read too much into the way people play in their first match, or first situations, but I've practised a lot with Andy and he's playing some great tennis. If he were to get the opportunity, I'm sure he would revel in that environment."

Parmar, 26, has not won a Davis Cup match in five attempts and is still associated with losing the fifth and deciding rubber against Ecuador at Wimbledon in 2000.

"Arvind had a bad experience against Ecuador. Big deal!" said Henman. "Unfortunately, you [the press] dwell on that. Arvind's improved so much. He's not going to say, 'I lost that match, I'm going to lose this.' If he were to be in that situation, I've every confidence he could go out there and perform well.

"David [Sherwood] had some suspect years when he wasn't really playing to his potential, but he seems to have got his head sorted out, and he's got the ability. Selecting him is the right message to send out."

Bogdanovic, 20, the nation's third-highest ranked player after Henman and Rusedski, had his Lawn Tennis Association funding stopped temporarily last year because it was felt he was not working hard enough. Though named as the fifth man in the squad, he is one of three players in contention for the second singles spot.

"I couldn't agree more," Henman said. "The bottom line is we're waiting for one of those guys to take the next step, and this is a great opportunity."

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