Rusedski ready to return in Davis Cup duel

Greg Rusedski said yesterday he would have no fears about his fitness if asked to play three Davis Cup rubbers in three days for Great Britain against the Grand Duchy here this weekend, when he is due to return to the court for the first time since losing to Albert Costa in the first round of the Australian Open in January, prior to being cleared by a drugs tribunal.

It was on the eve of Britain's last match in Morocco last September that the British No 2 heard he had tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone. The exhausted Rusedski's defeat in the fifth rubber to Hicham Arazi resulted in relegation from the World Group to Group One of the Euro-African Zone, the second division of the competition.

"I'm very happy with my fitness and I'm looking forward to the tie," Rusedski said. "This has been my goal all along, to be ready for Davis Cup. Whether I was chosen to play, or just chosen to be a practice partner, that all depended on the captain's choice. But I'm just glad to be back in a tennis environment."

Jeremy Bates, who will today name a team for the first time as Britain's captain, said: "Greg is fit. He's been playing tennis flat out for three weeks and prior to that as well. It is not like he is starting from scratch.

"Greg is an athlete with tremendous residual fitness. In the last weeks he has stepped up enormously." Asked if he thought Rusedski was in shape to play on three days, Bates said: "No problem." It remains to be seen, however, if Bates is prepared to take that risk.

While it would be ludicrous to suggest that the new captain has an embarrassment of riches, he does at least have options. Arvind Parmar, who had a disastrous Davis Cup debut against Ecuador at Wimbledon in 2000, has impressed with his form and attitude of late.

It is possible that Bates may select Parmar to play tomorrow against Luxembourg's No 1, the highly promising Gilles Muller, saving Rusedski for Saturday's doubles with Tim Henman. He would then be able to decide whether to play Rusedski or Parmar in one of the reverse singles on Sunday.

Parmar's defeat to the young Giovanni Lapentti on Wimbledon's No 1 court after leading by two sets in the final rubber damaged his confidence severely. Bates said he could relate to Parmar's experience, having lost to the teenager Razvan Sabau after seemingly being on the point of a straight sets victory in the opening rubber of Britain's Euro-African zone match against Romania on grass in Didsbury, Manchester, in 1994. Britain went on to lose that relegation play-off.

"Every player in the top 100 has experienced days like that," Bates said. "It is the sort of thing that happens, especially in Davis Cup, it's part of the mystery and appeal of Davis Cup. I can relate to Arvind about what happened to him, but we're not going to dwell on things like that. We're going forwards not backwards."

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