Tunisians tell of 'scary' build up to Davis Cup
Friday 04 March 2011
James Ward, Britain's No 1 singles player in this weekend's Davis Cup tie against Tunisia in Bolton, said that most of the home team had had a difficult start to the year, but their indifferent form and niggling injuries cannot compare with their opponents' experiences. The Tunisians have had their preparations disrupted by their country's recent revolution, which ignited upheavals throughout the region.
Malek Jaziri, Tunisia's best player at No 325 in the world rankings, was training in Tunis when a practice session was brought to a rapid halt by gunfire. "I was on the court with Malek when we heard guns being fired and we had to leave," Wallid Jallali, his coach, said yesterday. "People were shouting: 'They're coming! The helicopters are coming!' We did not leave our houses for a week. It was scary."
Jaziri had returned to Tunisia from a training camp in Spain one week before the revolution. "It wasn't easy," he said. "I had six days when I didn't practise. There were very big problems, though it's safe now."
While the team appeared happy with the outcome of the upheavals – "We needed that political change," Sami Ghorbel, the second singles player, said – one squad member, Ahmed Triki, did not make it to Britain after the troubles delayed his visa application. Jallali, has replaced him as a nominated player just to make up the numbers.
Ghorbel, a 19-year-old student on a tennis scholarship at university in Alabama, does not even have a world ranking. Slim Hamza, who will play doubles with Jaziri, is world No 1,602 in singles (he has precisely one ranking point, courtesy of one win in a Futures tournament in Tunisia last June) and does not have a doubles world ranking.
Leon Smith, Britain's captain, sprang a surprise when he omitted Alex Bogdanovic, having recalled the 26-year-old to the squad last week after a three-year absence. Instead, Smith's singles players are Ward (world No 214), who has lost at the first hurdle in six of his seven tournaments this year, and Jamie Baker (No 406), who has lost first time out in his last two. Although Bogdanovic (No 374) has lost all six of his live Davis Cup rubbers, he has at least won a Futures tournament in the United States this year. "James and Jamie are two guys with a lot of Davis Cup experience," Smith said. "It was a tough decision because all three have been playing very well since we've been together this week."
Andy Murray practised with the squad at Roehampton last week but did not make himself available for selection. However, his brother, Jamie, having returned to the world's top 50, is back after an absence of three years. He will partner Colin Fleming in the doubles.
Most of the tickets in the 1,800-capacity Bolton Arena have been sold for the first of three matches Britain must win to climb out of Europe Africa Zone Group Two, the competition's third tier. The winners will meet Ireland or Luxembourg in July.
Davis Cup schedule
(British names first):
Today (1pm start): J Baker v M Jaziri, J Ward v S Ghorbel
Tomorrow (1pm): J Murray and C Fleming v Jaziri and S Hamza
Sunday (midday): Ward v Jaziri, Baker v Ghorbel
Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
What time does Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao start?
Arsenal transfer targets: The summer signings that would please Thierry Henry, including Sami Khedira and Edinson Cavani
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: What time does it start and where can I watch it?
Thierry Henry 'singles out' Mesut Ozil, picking up on the Arsenal midfielder's embarrassing stats
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove