Britain's goal is to win a match in the Davis Cup World Group, a feat last accomplished against Spain at Telford in 1989. Whether or not the nation is blessed with a victory against Sweden at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena on 8-10 February next year, yesterday's draw could not have produced a more attractive tie.
Swedish tennis may not be as vibrant as in the days of Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg, but the team ethic of the Davis Cup still means more to Swedes than the triumphs of individual players. And although the names of the current Swedish contenders may lack the lustre of their predecessors, the strength in depth remains.
Britain, relying largely on Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski, a cast of two, would love to be able to select from a squad which included such talented, experienced, versatile and steadfast competitors as Thomas Johansson, Thomas Enqvist, Johan Bjorkman and Magnus Larsson, along with the aspiring Simon Aspelin (Magnus Norman will not be fit in time following a hip operation).
"For me," said Roger Taylor, Britain's captain, "the Swedes are a little bit like the Australians in the sense of their strength in depth and their tremendous team spirit, no matter who plays." Taylor believes last month's splendid victory in Ecuador, which returned Britain to the 16-strong World Group, brought fresh impetus to his campaign. "I think we grew as a team in Ecuador. When you come through a match like that, when you're not expected to win it, and you get a great performance like Greg Rusedski's in the opening match, you can see the team spirit and bonding. Everybody was pulling for each other. All the boys – whoever plays – want to do well for Great Britain."
Taylor describes the tie against Sweden as a 50-50 match, and is hoping that a home draw, the support of a 10,000 crowd, and the determination of the players, will tip the balance Britain's way. The reward would be a second round tie at home to Russia or away to Switzerland.
"We're under no illusions," said Henman, the British No 1. "It's going to be a tough match against Sweden. It's like everything at this level of the game – easy is not a word that comes into it. If Greg and I are healthy it's probably a 50-50 match. We'd like to say it's 51-49 in our favour, but Sweden have shown time after time they can make the latter stages and win the competition. I think we still fancy our chances."
DAVIS CUP DRAW World Group first round (x denotes seed): (x) France v Netherlands, Czech Rep v (x) Brazil, (x) Spain v Morocco, USA v Slovak Rep, (x) Russia v Switzerland, Great Britain v (x) Sweden, Croatia v (x) Germany, Argentina v (x) Australia.Reuse content