Andy Murray hopes to be well enough to head for California on Monday but the rest of British men's tennis may have already gone west by then. News that the world No 4 is not suffering from glandular fever coincided yesterday with a less than favourable prognosis for the British Davis Cup team, who went 2-0 down on the first day against Ukraine here.
Murray, who pulled out of the tie because of a flu-like virus that has troubled him for several weeks, plans to resume light training tomorrow before flying to the United States to play in Indian Wells. How John Lloyd, the British captain, must be wishing that the Scot had recovered a week earlier. The absence of the country's only world-class player left Lloyd's inexperienced team badly needing to make a winning start at the Braehead Arena, but Josh Goodall and Chris Eaton both lost on their debuts.
Goodall rarely looked capable of beating Illya Marchenko, who won 7-6, 7-6, 7-6 in a match that was not as close as the scoreline suggested. Eaton performed more effectively against Sergiy Stakhovsky but still lost 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. "It's a long way back," Lloyd admitted last night. "I have to give the Ukrainians credit. They both played the big points really well."
Ross Hutchins and Colin Fleming need to beat Stakhovsky and Sergei Bubka in this afternoon's doubles to keep the tie alive. If Britain lose they will next play in September away to Belgium or at home to Poland, the losers to be relegated to Group Two of the Europe-Africa Zone, effectively the Davis Cup's third division.
There was a gap of only 32 positions between Goodall and Marchenko in the world rankings, with the Briton the better placed at No 192, but the Ukrainian looked the more accomplished throughout. He moved around the court more freely, made fewer errors and had the best stroke on view with his sweetly struck backhand. Marchenko also kept the cooler head in all three tie-breaks, while Goodall admitted that he had felt nervous.
"It was my debut and I wasn't thinking completely straight," he said. Goodall's first serve was a potent weapon and there was plenty of power in his forehand, but his backhand was a liability. The Briton rarely had the confidence to hit through the ball on his weaker flank and was constantly trying to run round the ball to play forehands. Having twice come back from a break down in the first set only to lose the tie-break 7-2, Goodall recovered from 4-0 down in the second to lead the tie-break 5-3. Thereafter, however, his challenge sank like a brick tossed into the nearby River Clyde, four horrible forehands giving the set to Marchenko. The third set was tight, but Goodall's resistance finally ended after three hours and nine minutes on the Ukrainian's seventh match point.
"It was a close match, but I felt I gave myself a lot to do in every set," Goodall said afterwards. "I don't think I got it tactically right. I was trying to run around my backhand too much. I hit too many forehands and it wasn't working today. When I was 4-0 down in the second set I changed tactics and it worked, but I went back to running round my backhand for some reason."
On paper Eaton had a much tougher task, but the world No 383, facing an opponent ranked 258 places above him, frequently had Stakhovsky in trouble. Playing serve-and-volley and attacking the net at every opportunity, the Briton forced his opponent into hurried mistakes. Stakhovsky, however, made his experience tell and upped his game whenever he got into trouble.
Eaton was unable to make up ground in the first set after losing the first three games but played a fine second set, serving out after making an early break. Stakhovsky, however, broke in the eighth game of the third set and the seventh of the fourth to secure his win. "I thought I played well at the beginning," Eaton said. "I kept going, kept trying to do what was going to give me the best chance of winning the match, but I just came up short."
Davis Cup Europe-Africa Zone Group One (Glasgow), Great Britain 0 Ukraine 2 (GB names first): Yesterday: J Goodall lost to I Marchenko 7-6, 7-6, 7-6; C Eaton lost to S Stakhovsky 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 6-4.
Remaining matches: Today: C Fleming & R Hutchins v S Bubka & S Stakhovsky
Tomorrow: J Goodall v S Stakhovsky; C Eaton v I Marchenko.Reuse content