Lloyd fears Davis Cup disaster without Rusedski

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The Independent Online

Britain's Davis Cup captain David Lloyd admits it would be a "disaster" if Greg Rusedski was ruled out of the World Group first-round tie against the Czech Republic next February.

Britain's Davis Cup captain David Lloyd admits it would be a "disaster" if Greg Rusedski was ruled out of the World Group first-round tie against the Czech Republic next February.

Rusedski has confirmed he will miss the first grand slam event of next year - the Australian Open starting in Melbourne on January 17 - after undergoing an operation on his right foot this week in Germany.

The British number two returned to London today but would only reveal: "The operation was straightforward and a complete success, and I hope to be playing again in early February."

Lloyd maintains Britain need their two top players, Tim Henman and Rusedski, to be at full strength in the Davis Cup.

And it remains to be seen if 26-year-old Rusedski, who married his girlfriend Lucy Connor three weeks ago, will be fit for the start of the competition at the Zimni Stadion in Ostrava on February 4.

"I saw him at his wedding and on his honeymoon and there was no mention of this so it has come as a shock," said Lloyd.

"Missing a major tournament like the Australian (Open) is a blow in itself, but if he is not going to make the Davis Cup side then from a British point of view it would be a disaster."

Lloyd told BBC Radio 5 Live: "Tim and Greg are so far in front of the other players that without him it would be virtually impossible. It's difficult as it is."

Defeat would also scupper Britain's chances of setting up a mouthwatering second-round revenge mission against the United States.

The Americans, who are expected to prove too strong for Zimbabwe in Harare in the first round, won a thrilling tie in Birmingham last April with Rusedski beaten by Todd Martin and Jim Courier in his singles rubbers.

Today's announcement caps an injury-ravaged last two years for the world number 14, who will also miss the pre-grand slam tournament in Sydney next month.

In May last year he was forced to miss Wimbledon with an ankle injury which saw him ruled out of action for two months shortly after peaking at number four in the world rankings.

Then a back injury plagued him going into 1999 and he was disappointingly beaten in the second round of the Australian Open by unheralded American qualifier Paul Goldstein.

But the year improved for the Canadian-born left-hander when he became the first Briton in 22 years to reach the fourth round of the French Open, although he needed medical treatment to bad blisters on his feet after failing to reach the quarter-finals when his inconsistent form saw him beaten by Uruguayan qualifier Marcelo Filippini, then ranked a lowly 140 in the world.

At Wimbledon this year he lost in the fourth round to fellow big server Mark Philippoussis, but injury returned to haunt him during the autumn when he was forced to pull out of successive tournaments in Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Indianapolis because of tendinitis in his right big toe and foot.

In September he suffered arguably his most painful defeat of the year when, after being two sets up and serving for the match, he lost to Todd Martin in the fourth round of the US Open.

Rusedski bounced back to help Britain beat South Africa in the Davis Cup, and in October claimed more than £800,000 for winning the Grand Slam Cup in Munich.

Two weeks later he followed that up with victory in the ATP CA Tournament in Vienna.

But his hopes of ending the century on a high were shattered when a thigh muscle injury saw him pull out of the Paris Open in November, so ending his chances of booking a place in the season-ending ATP World Championships.