Davis Cup - Tramlines: Murray absence damages GB

Mon, 12 Jul 18:12:00 2010

Little segments of British sporting joy can be discovered in the country's most unheralded nooks and crannies.

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In a fairly mundane summer of competition for those aspiring to the Union Jack, tennis at least provided a little spot of sultry refuge over the weekend as Great Britain presided over a 5-0 roasting of Turkey in the Davis Cup.

A second and fourth place in the British Grand Prix, a football referee from Rotherham described as a "chump" by the Dutch for his handling of the World Cup final is all perhaps a little bit gloomy, but it was far from a disconcerting Sunday afternoon at the deliciously titled Devonshire Park in Eastbourne.

If Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Howard Webb were enduring wildly contrasting fortunes in what was hardly a peaceful Sabbath, Britain's hardy band of tennis journeymen in the shape of the spirited Jamie Baker and James Ward, aided by the doubles duo of Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski, were applying the finishing touches to Great Britain's throttling of the Turks, a win that was greeted with as much relish among the locals as Tiffin and teatime drinks.

It was hardly enough to force folk to drop their ice cream in astonishment on the town's seafront, but it was enough of an outcome to prove noteworthy after five straight losses.

GB, once supported by the twin pillars of Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski, had spent three years without a win in the sport's premier team event, but this success provided a sort of mirage in a desert of defeats that prevented the country from slinking into the undergrowth of the Davis Cup's lowest levels.

As Leon Smith, the fresh and fairly studious captain of the British team commented, such happenings should rightly be rejoiced, even if, in his private moments, he must be frustrated by Andy Murray's continued absence from the squad.

It has been argued that Switzerland's Roger Federer and Spain's world number one Rafael Nadal regularly opt out of Davis Cup matches in July with US Open plans looming, but their absence does not impact upon their nations as much as Murray opting out impinges upon Britain's status.

The poverty of British tennis allows Murray to get away with such behaviour, but if the country was overflowing with talent then Murray would probably not wish or be allowed to choose when he performs. Like it or not, Murray has a duty to British tennis fans, which he is hardly fulfilling at the moment. Murray last played for Great Britain when they lost to Poland in September 2009 and he sustained a wrist injury that ate into his personal schedule.

Murray, a fairly single-minded young Scot and the main stanchion of the British team, continues to choose his Davis Cup matches carefully. After losing to Lithuania without Murray in March, GB faced tumbling to rock bottom in the Davis Cup if they lost to Turkey, but such a parlous situation was not enough to convince Murray that his presence was required.

There is little doubt, Murray will have to return to the side if the British team harbour any notions of success at any acceptable level in the Davis Cup.

Murray has already reaped substantial riches in sponsorship from his role as Britain's only realistic hope to win the men's singles title at Wimbledon, but his decision to skip the Davis Cup leaves him open to criticism, even if his main priorities swirl around his preparations for the Grand Slams.

It certainly does not seem sporting or correct to clamp one's self to the British flag at Wimbledon in mid-June before shedding it less than a week later because you just don't fancy the idea.

If Murray, 23, was in his late twenties or early thirties perhaps one could understand his motives, but he is in his prime and one could argue that he owes it to the development of the sport to reinvest his exertions, even if his country will not be a viable candidate to reach the latter stages of the event.

Eastbourne may not have been be the most prized outpost on Murray's tennis calendar, but his presence ensures tennis a more viable and visible standing in the United Kingdom when the memory of the Wimbledon fortnight dwindles, as it quickly does.

It would also stifle the notion that he cares as much for Britain's Davis Cup output as he does the England football team.



Mardy Fish is the big mover in the rankings after he overcame Olivier Rochus 5-7 6-3 6-4 to win the Campbell's Hall of Fame Championship in Newport.

Fish is clearly a man in decent form having lost to Sam Querrey in the final at Queen's Club last month.

The American player rises around 30 places in the rankings to number 49 in the world with Belgium's Rochus moving up four spots to 61st place.

In the women's game, Aravane Rezai enjoyed a productive week in winning the Swedish Open with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 final win over Gisela Dulko.

The French player is up one place to 20 in the world, while Dulko moves up five spots to 43 in the rankings.

Agnes Szavay beat Patty Schnyder 2-6 6-4 6-2 to win the GDF SUEZ Grand Prix in Budapest.

She remains at 49 in the world. Schnyder remains at 56.



Winner: "This is probably the sweetest victory in my career because this is not just an individual win, but a victory for my country." - Novak Djokovic revels in Serbia's Davis Cup victory over neighbours Croatia after sampling "ethnic insults" during his win over Marin Cilic in the singles.

Runner-Up: "I said to him before the match, the only two matches he's won in his career and there's been a gambling scandal. He doesn't seem like that type of guy. Maybe he's got rich friends." Mardy Fish sympathies with Britain's Richard Bloomfield, whose unexpected run to the last four in Newport prompted an investigation into irregular betting patterns.

Wooden spoon: "I have two passports. When I play for France people said 'she is Iranian not French'. I am proud to be half-Iranian and that is why I have a necklace from Iran around my neck at all times. Yet I play tennis for France, the country where I grew up. So many people ask me whether I prefer France or Iran . I say: do you ask a mother which son she prefers?' I love both countries." In a fairly convoluted way, Aravane Rezai claims she is both French and Iranian. Andy Murray is both Scottish and British, but at least one country is inside the other.



Still no sign of Britain's Alex Bogdanovic coming across the American Alex Bogomolov Junior in the men's singles.

Bogdanovic enjoyed a 7-6 6-3 win over Joran Kerr in the opening qualifying round of the Newport tournament before Germany's Michael Kohlmann, a figure ranked at 910 in the world, outlasted him 4-6 6-3 3-6 in the second round.

Alex Bogomolov Jnr was thumped 0-6 3-6 by Frederico Gil in the last 32 of the Turin challenger tournament on clay.

Bogdanovic is ranked 175 in the world with Bogomolov Jnr down at 226. We give this week's vote to the British A-Bog, no matter how fragile his game may be.

Standings A-Bog (US) 10-9 A-Bog (GB)



The MercedesCup and the Swedish Open are the main draws on the men's tour with Nikolay Davydenko, Gael Monfils and Jurgen Melzer competing in the MercedesCup clay event in Stuttgart.

Juan Martin del Potro drove away in a Mercedes-Benz SLK 350 after winning last year's event.

Robin Soderling defends his Swedish Open title in Bastad with Spaniards Fernando Verdasco and David Ferrer also in action.

In the women's game, Flavia Pennetta aims to defend her title in Palermo, while Czech number one Lucie Safarova tops the field at the Prague Open.


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