Sergei Stakhovsky was a relieved man here yesterday. Having had to retire in the final set of his first-round match in the Dubai Championships against Andy Murray because of an ankle injury, the 23-year-old Ukrainian was concerned that he might not be fit for his rematch against the world No 4 in Glasgow next week. After treatment, however, Stakhovsky reported that he should recover in time to face Britain in the Davis Cup at the Braehead Arena.
In an age when some leading players choose when to represent their country, Stakhovsky knows where his priorities lie. "It all comes down to whether you play for your singles career or for the Davis Cup," the world No 75 said. "You have to sacrifice something." Since playing in the defeat to Britain in Odessa three years ago, Stakhovsky has appeared in all five of Ukraine's ties in the twilight zone of Europe-Africa Zone Group Two. For Stakhovsky the sacrifices in going to Glasgow are considerable. He will be unable to play in the qualifiers for next month's Masters Series event in Indian Wells, ruling him out of the following tournament in Miami. "It makes no sense flying out just to play 'qualies' in Miami," he said. "But I'm willing to sacrifice everything."
While the Lawn Tennis Association will pay its players up to £10,000 each in Glasgow, the Ukrainian federation cannot offer its players anything. "I hope they're going to pay the air fare," Stakhovsky smiled, adding that the Ukrainian party would consist of just four players, a captain and a coach. Not that he is complaining. "I think we owe it to the nation to make an effort," he said. "You only play for your country three times a year."
Stakhovsky finds it "funny" that the LTA, which receives more than £25m a year from Wimbledon profits alone, is staging a six-man play-off between Josh Goodall, James Ward, Alex Slabinsky, Chris Eaton, Dan Evans and Colin Fleming at Roehampton this week to decide which two players will join Andy Murray and Ross Hutchins in Glasgow. After Murray, Britain's next highest-ranked singles player is Alex Bogdanovic, the world No 190, whose Davis Cup record is so poor that he was excluded from the play-offs.
Murray's second-round opponent here today is Arnaud Clement, who beat Rainer Schüttler 1-6, 6-3, 6-3. Clement, the world No 73, beat Murray in their only two previous meetings, in 2005 and 2006. Novak Djokovic, the top seed, faces Jan Hernych after easing to a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Italy's Flavio Cipolla, the world No 125.
* Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, Kim Clijsters and Tim Henman will be the first to play under Wimbledon's new sliding roof when they appear in a test event at the All England Club on Sunday 17 May. Tickets, which will cost £35, will go on sale on 12 March.