In making his inaugural selection as Britain's Davis Cup captain, Jeremy Bates has gambled that Arvind Parmar will be able to redeem himself in the Euro-African Zone second-round tie against Luxembourg, which starts today.
When Bates's predecessor, Roger Taylor, made his first selection as captain, for a World Group qualifying round tie against Ecuador at Wimbledon in 2000, Greg Rusedski injured a foot and Parmar replaced him for the fifth and decisive rubber. It was calamitous. Parmar lost a two-sets-to-love lead against the 17-year- old Giovanni Lapentti, and Britain dropped out of the World Group.
Today, Parmar steps in for Rusedski again, this time partly becauses Bates believes he has earned the chance and partly because it will allow Rusedski to conserve his energy to partner Tim Henman in tomorrow's doubles. That match will mark Rusedski's return to the court for the first time since being exonerated after his recent nandrolone controversy.
Henman, as usual, is scheduled to play three matches in three days, and Bates will have the option of playing Rusedski instead of Parmar in Sunday's conluding singles rubber should events not go to plan.
Parmar, ranked No 148, opens the tie against the Luxembourg No 1, Gilles Muller, a 20-year-old left-hander who was the world's top junior in 2001. Muller, currently ranked No 155, defeated Jarkko Nieminen, of Finland, in the first round. Parmar and Muller are tied 1-1 in their head-to-heads, while the 6ft 5in Muller is one inch taller.
Henman, ranked No 8, is on second today against the Luxembourg No 2, Gilles Kremer, ranked No 888, and is due to play Muller in the first of Sunday's reverse singles matches.
"Tim has had a great year to date," Bates said, "and I feel Arvind has had one of his best starts to the season. The way he's come on over the last few months, he throughly deserves this opportunity to play. We're a strong team, and over the course of the three days we'll remain strong. It's tough for people to play three matches. It's quite a strain on the players. Arvind has put himself in the equation, so we have got some options."
Parmar said: "It will be nice to put things right after losing the match the way I did the first time. That was a long time ago, and I think I've matured and progressed as a player. It did play on my mind a little bit afterwards, but I played a tournament the week after and reached the semi-finals of a Challenger. I've been in team a few times now, and I'm looking forward to my second live singles match. I played Muller in Nottingham last November. It was a close match. I won, 6-4, 7-6."
Rusedski managed to be upbeat about the tournament. "My fitness level's no problem now after nearly a month's training," he said. "I've practised with everybody and played sets. The match preparation has been really good, so I'm really happy with where I am.
"Jeremy's made the choice that he feels best, and Arvind's been playing well, as Jeremy said, so I think it's a great opportunity, and I think Arvind will play very well.
"I'm looking forward to starting in the doubles, and we'll just have to see what the score is after the first two days, and just go from there. I'm looking forward to getting back in a competitive arena, try to put all that other stuff behind me and and just focus on tennis and what I do best."
This tie in the National Tennis Centre, with seats for less than 900 spectators, would have been held in a bigger arena but the singer Bryan Adams is performing in the city, and the surface would have had to have been slow clay, but that proved to be too expensive.
Incidentally, the best known tennis player in Luxembourg is Gilles Kremer's sister, Anne, who carried the national flag at the 1996 Olympic Games and and two years ago was voted Luxembourg's Sports Personality of the Year.Reuse content