Slovaks are step up for GB team without Murray
The Scottish influence is usually such that you half-expect Britain's Davis Cup team to go on court wearing kilts, but the two most famous players from north of Hadrian's Wall will be notable by their absence for the tie against Slovakia at the Braehead Arena in Glasgow this weekend.
Andy Murray, the world No 4, is resting after his exertions at last month's Australian Open, while his brother, Jamie, was overlooked, with captain Leon Smith instead opting for the established doubles team of Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins.
Smith is fully supportive of the younger Murray's decision to miss the tie – "It's important that when he can let himself rest and regenerate and then train up for the rest of the season that he does that" – but his absence could be crucial.
This is Britain's first match following promotion back to Europe Africa Zone Group One, effectively the Davis Cup's second division, and their opponents are significantly stronger than Tunisia, Luxembourg and Hungary, the teams they beat last year.
The Slovakians have an edge in terms of world rankings. Their singles players are Lukas Lacko (world No 65) and Martin Klizan (120), who will take on James Ward (158) and Dan Evans (276). The doubles team of Filip Polasek (No 21 in doubles) and Michal Mertinak (61), who have won 20 titles on the ATP circuit, face Fleming (28) and Hutchins (37), who have won just six.
Ward has won seven of his nine Davis Cup rubbers and should feel encouraged by his performances last month in Melbourne. Evans has lost all four of his previous rubbers but has had a useful start to the year, winning a Futures tournament last month and successfully negotiating three rounds in qualifying for Zagreb last week.
"At this level there are very strong tennis nations with good strength in depth, and it's what we aspire to so it's important that, with or without Andy, we get a chance to play against them," Smith said. "We can win it but it's going to be very tough."
Programme (British names first): Today (3pm): D Evans v L Lacko; J Ward v M Klizan. Tomorrow (1pm): C Fleming and R Hutchins v F Polasek and M Mertinak. Sunday (1pm): Ward v Lacko; Evans v Klizan.
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