The Odessa Lawn Tennis Club, a haven of calm amid the bustle of this Black Sea resort, is an unlikely setting for the start of a revolution. However, the new guard in charge of the British game, having swept aside the ancien régime, is hoping that this weekend's Davis Cup tie here against Ukraine will signal a fresh beginning.
Roger Draper, the Lawn Tennis Association's recently appointed chief executive, will expect John Lloyd, Brad Gilbert and Peter Lundgren, the three highest-profile additions to his team, to make their mark over the next three days.
Draper named Lloyd as Davis Cup captain in succession to Jeremy Bates after defeat against Israel at Eastbourne in July sent Britain into this relegation play-off. The losers join Group Two of the Europe-Africa zone, effectively the Davis Cup's third division and a level at which Britain last played 10 years ago.
Lloyd is being assisted by Lundgren, Roger Federer's former coach, and Gilbert, who was appointed by the LTA in July to work primarily with Andy Murray. Lundgren is currently taking a break from working with Marat Safin.
With Miles Maclagan also working with the team, there are as many coaches as players. "Before, the coaches were normally only Jeremy [Bates] and Martin [Bohm]," Murray pointed out yesterday.
Indeed, Murray, at 19, is the only player or coach who will have taken part in all three of Britain's matches this year, which began with a defeat against Serbia & Montenegro in Glasgow. The other members of the team are Greg Rusedski, who missed the Israel tie with a hip injury which is threatening to hasten the end of his career, Jamie Delgado, who has lost all six of his Davis Cup rubbers, and Jamie Baker, who is making his debut. Delgado replaced Alan Mackin, who did not endear himself to Lloyd when he chose to play in a tournament in France, restricting his availability to join a training camp in Vienna last week.
It had been feared that Rusedski's injury might restrict him to tomorrow's doubles, in which he has been named alongside Murray. However, he has performed well in practice and Lloyd, hoping to take an immediate stranglehold on the tie, has named the 33-year-old for today's opening singles matches.
If Ukraine are to have any hope, they will surely have to win the first rubber. Rusedski, whose world ranking has plummeted 99 places to No 136 since the start of his injury-troubled year, takes on 20-year-old Sergei Stakhovsky, who at No 188 is the only Ukrainian in the world's top 300.
Rusedski will no doubt have been briefed by Murray, who beat Stakhovsky in the junior final at the 2004 US Open. In the junior doubles at Flushing Meadows, 12 months earlier, the Scot also played Alexander Dolgopolov Jnr, the 17-year-old world No 352 who is his opponent in today's second singles match. The Ukrainian team also includes Sergei Bubka, the son of the former pole vaulter, but as the lowest-ranked player he is unlikely to play other than in a dead rubber.
Murray says he will be disappointed if Britain lose a single match. "We're the favourites and we should win 5-0 if you look at the rankings of the players involved," he said. "The obvious advantage they have is that they're on home soil, but it's a pretty small stadium so it's not going to be too intimidating."
The official capacity here is 1,280, but there appeared to be fewer than half that number of seats available as last-minute preparations continued while the British team started their final practice session yesterday morning.
Murray, who said the clay courts were pleasingly quick, went to Gilbert's home in California to work with his new coach after going out of the US Open. "I've worked on some things with Brad and I'm really looking forward to putting them into the matches," he said. "I feel that I'm already playing much better."
That will delight Lloyd, who said Britain were "too good" to drop down a division. "We've found ourselves in a position where we shouldn't be, so we have to get the hell out of it," he said. "We all know the importance of this match."
The Odessa file: How they line up
(World rankings in brackets)
Sergei Stakhovsky (188)
Alexander Dolgopolov Jnr (352)
Orest Tersehchuk (354)
Sergei Bubka (461)
Andy Murray (16)
Greg Rusedski (136)
Jamie Baker (300)
Stakhovsky v Rusedski
Dolgopolov Jnr v Murray
Stakhovsky & Dolgopolov Jnr v Murray & Rusedski
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