Simon Reed

Italy on clay the ultimate test for GB’s unheralded Davis Cup adventure

Simon Reed

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Colin Fleming, Dominic Inglot, James Ward, Andy Murray and Captain Leon Smith (GBR) and the GBR support team pose with the British flag after defeating the USA in their Davis Cup tie at Petco Park.

Cometh the hour, cometh the team. Despite being proud of what went on over the weekend in San Diego, I remain surprised that Great Britain managed to overcome the USA to reach the Davis Cup quarter-finals.

Certainly looking at the tie beforehand it appeared daunting, but Sam Querrey produced a disastrous performance in losing to James Ward on Friday that provided Andy Murray with the scope to finish them off yesterday. Ward was far from at his best against Querrey, but didn't need to be against a figure who produced an abject performance.

I cannot work out how Querrey could play as badly against Ward on the Friday then play as well as he did against Andy. He lost the match to Ward quite miserably, but was almost like a different player and was a tough proposition for Andy to break down. Thankfully, he did.

Maybe it was the pressure of being expected to win a match against Ward, and then not being expected to win against Andy that changed his outlook. Maybe he got a stern lecture from his captain for losing to Ward. He certainly deserved it. It was bizarre.

That was the moment that lost the match for the USA. James may have been too good for Donald Young on the final day if he needed to produce, but beating Querrey was the crucial factor.

Now GB can look forward to a match against Italy in early April. It is a tie that looks slightly more winnable than the US one. I thought the US were around 60-40 going into the match against us, but this tie is slightly reversed. Because of what happened in the US, I'd say we are slight favourites.

I say that because our doubles team of Colin Fleming and Murray will be too strong for their doubles team. Still, Fabio Fognini is so tough on clay. He is in the top 15 in the world, and he will love the arena. It is such a tough match for Andy. If he wins that, it will probably be his best Davis Cup win.

Andreas Seppi is no pushover either, but I think Andy will beat their two singles players. He was always likely to beat Querrey and Young. And probably John Isner if he hadn't been injured before the match.

You can't say that Andy is certain to beat these guys on clay, though. You have to think he probably could, but that would be a monstrous achievement to play those single matches in Italy and win.

Without him, we have no chance but with him I'd have us marginal favourites because I just think that Murray might do it.

He can beat Seppi, but Fognini is the big one because I can't really see anybody else apart from Murray contributing to the team's points total in Italy.

It will all come down to what Andy offers up. These guys at home on clay are just too good. Seppi is ranked 31 in the world, Fognini is 15.

They will just have too much for James Ward or Kyle Edmund, but the spirit in the squad will be fantastic. They are probably getting to the stage where they think they can do everything.

Coming back from 2-0 down to overcome Russia and beating Croatia and the USA is phenomenal, but this is up another level. A home tie against Switzerland in the last four is the reward for progress this time.

That would be at the O2 or possibly Wimbledon against Stanislas Wawrinka and Roger Federer in September which shows you that it isn't going to get any easier.

Britain winning the tournament is not impossible, but it will come down to the form of Murray from here on in.

Murray is not bad on clay, but he is slightly less effective on that surface than hard courts or grass. It should be a great atmosphere in Italy.

It is the first time we have reached the quarter-finals in 28 years. That is a real achievement, but another couple of wins could really raise the awareness of the Davis Cup as a competition in Britain.

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