It has not been the best of summers for John Lloyd, Britain's Davis Cup captain. Andy Murray, his leading player, has hardly played because of his damaged wrist; Tim Henman, having been tempted out of Davis Cup retirement earlier this year, has been dragged down by the back problem which will lead to his quitting the game next month; Jamie Murray has split from his regular doubles partner; and the next rank of British men have made little impact at the Grand Slam tournaments.
Lloyd yesterday named his team for next month's World Group play-off against Croatia at Wimbledon – the two Murrays will line up alongside Henman and Jamie Baker –and will enjoy the news that Mario Ancic is likely to miss the tie. Croatia's best grass-court player – the last man to beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon – injured his shoulder in New Haven last week and is expected to pull out of this week's US Open before his first match against Novak Djokovic.
It adds to a year of woe for Ancic, who had six months out with glandular fever and has failed to progress beyond the second round of the three tournaments he has played since returning earlier this month. The 23-year-old was a mainstay of the team alongside Ivan Ljubicic when Croatia won the Davis Cup for the first time two years ago.
The second singles post may now go to Ivo Karlovic, whose huge serve could be a major weapon at Wimbledon, but the world No 30 is in dispute with his national federation over money. Marin Cilic, the world No 116, who beat Henman at Queen's Club in June, would be the obvious alternative.
Lloyd said Henman's retirement after the Croatia tie would be a major blow for the team in the future, but he did not expect the former British No 1's decision to affect his performance next month.
"He's the ultimate pro," Lloyd said yesterday. "I would think he would use every bit that he's got for this week [at the US Open] and for the Davis Cup because it's his last competitive thing. I think that now he's made the decision, it's done. I'm expecting a lot from him. I think he'll be fired up like there's no tomorrow – because there is no tomorrow."
Alex Bogdanovic, the British No 3, and Richard Bloomfield, the No 5, will train with the squad as they prepare for the tie. Lloyd said he would have named Bogdanovic as the fourth member of his team ahead of Baker but for an injury that forced him to retire three games into his first qualifying match for the US Open.
"Bogdanovic is unlucky," Lloyd said. "He's had this wretched rib and back injury and hasn't won a match since then. He's been basically playing at 80 per cent most of the time and it looks like he might have to have a couple of weeks off. He's in the six, but I'm not going to name him for obvious reasons. He may not even be fit to play anyway. I spoke to him and he understands that."
Baker, the British No 4 and world No 231, reached the final round of qualifying in New York and impressed Lloyd with his attitude and hard work when he was part of the captain's first squad last year, when Britain avoided relegation by beating Ukraine in Odessa.
Lloyd's team will assemble at Wimbledon a week before the start of next month's tie, which gives Britain a chance to return to the elite World Group for the first time since 2003. "The way I look at it, grass is a surface that all our guys get used to very quickly," Lloyd said. "It's not something where we go away on clay and need a practice week.
"Grass-court tennis for our guys you pick up in 10 minutes. It's not a surface that takes a lot of getting used to if you know how to play on it. I think by the time this summer circuit has gone through we'll have played enough tennis, even though obviously with Andy and Tim they haven't played as many matches as they would like.
"Grass is an easy surface to get used to and I think we'll get to the point where everyone is peaking at the right time. I don't think you want to be there too much because you get hacked off with a place, no matter where it is, if you are there too long."
Lloyd said he regarded Croatia as the favourites, "but we've got a good shot as long as our boys are fit". He added: "I believe we can get in the World Group and then you just don't know. In Andy, we've got a player who can win two matches against anybody in any Davis Cup match and if you can do that you've only got to sneak one more win."Reuse content