Federer's return threatens British Davis Cup hopes

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The Independent Online

The ominous news for Britain is that Roger Federer, the world No 1 and Wimbledon champion, will return to play for Switzerland in the Davis Cup World Group play-off against them on 23-25 September.

Federer, who took a break when Switzerland lost at home to the Netherlands in the first round of the World Group in March, confirmed last night that he would be back for the tie, which is likely to be played in Geneva.

In fact, he was lyrical about it: "I play with great joy in the Swiss team against Britain, and I hope my contribution will be that we stay in the World Group."

There is an exciting possibility that Andrew Murray, the 17-year-old US Open junior champion who featured in Britain's win over Israel in March, will make his Davis Cup singles debut against Federer.

Jeremy Bates, the British captain, said the draw was "fantastic" and welcomed the challenge of Federer, but added: "It's up to him to decide what he does, but it makes a bit of a mockery of the competition when leading players dip in and out.

"Federer did not play when Switzerland had a chance of reaching the quarter-finals," he added, "and will come back when he's needed to keep them up."

Greg Rusedski said Federer's presence would make it a more difficult task, but that he was looking forward to the match. Rusedski added: "You've got to think that Andy Murray has a great chance of playing. He's the one who has shown most on the court. The other players have got to show that fight to step over the others to get that place. But there is a long time to go before the tie.

"In Israel, Andy showed that determination with David Sherwood in the doubles. I think that was one of the best performances in a British Davis Cup tie in a long time. Here were two young rookies going in as the underdogs and coming up with the point. That's the sort of fight we want and need to find."

Federer is among absentees here at the Rome Masters, resting his sore feet before continuing his build-up for the French Open.

Guillermo Coria, the Argentinian ninth seed, advanced to the second round yesterday after a close-fought, three-hour contest against Fernando Gonzalez, of Chile. Coria won, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4.

Coria is adjusting to a new racket. "It's always difficult when you change," he said, "but I needed to after my shoulder operation."

The second-seeded Marat Safin, of Russia, defeated Jiri Novak, of the Czech Republic, 6-7, 6-1, 6-1. Safin would have had an easier day if he had not lost a 4-1 lead in the opening set.

Rafael Nadal, the 18-year-old Spanish star, had no problems beating Mikhail Youzhny, of Russia, 6-0 6-2.