Great Britain’s Davis Cup qualifier in Colombia ‘very complicated’ says captain

Great Britain captain Leon Smith is preparing his squad for a very “complicated” Davis Cup Finals qualifying tie in Colombia on clay.

The main challenge – aside from a demanding travel schedule and the 16-hour time difference having flown from Australia – is the fact the matches will be played at an altitude of 2,600 metres and with pressureless balls.

Smith selected the highest ranked team, with British numbers one, two and three – Cameron Norrie, Dan Evans and Jack Draper, called up for the first time – all making the trip alongside doubles players Neal Skupski and Joe Salisbury.

Friday’s opening singles match at the Pueblo Viejo Country Club will see Evans face Nicolas Mejia, with world number 11 Norrie then playing Nicolas Barrientos.

Evans will be in doubles action on Saturday when he partners Skupski against Juan-Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, who are two-time grand slam champions.

The reverse singles, featuring Evans and Norrie again, will finish proceedings if needed.

“When the draw came out we knew this was probably the most complicated fixture we could have,” Smith said.

“Colombia is a really strong team anyway, but when you factor in the logistics of coming from Melbourne for most of our players, changing surface, but of course the altitude, it is something that needs adaptation.

“The ball is probably the main thing and that is why we came early, to have seven or eight days preparation which is longer than usual for Davis Cup.”

While Andy Murray missed out on selection for the tie, Draper, 21, had been called up for the first time after his rapid climb from outside the top 250 at the start of last year to rank 40th in the ATP singles standings.

Smith told a press conference following the pre-tie draw: “We have our strongest team and to have all of them wanting to be here, representing their country and be prepared to come early has made a big difference, but we know it is going to be a very difficult challenge.”

Norrie reached the final in Auckland and made the third round at the Australian Open, but will not take the challenge of world number 510 Barrientos lightly.

“We have to realise that we’re playing in difficult conditions,” the British number one said.

“It is pretty complicated coming from Melbourne and having to adapt to the altitude and the ball, but we have given ourselves the best chance.

“I am playing really well at the moment so I’m looking forward to getting going tomorrow.”

Dan Evans
Dan Evans will also play doubles against Colombia (Steve Welsh/PA)

Evans recently voiced his frustration at not being picked for doubles in the defeats by the United States and the Netherlands in Glasgow last September, when Smith instead selected Murray and Salisbury, as Britain failed to qualify for the quarter-finals.

“Opening up the tie is going to be good fun, with a good crowd,” Evans said. “I am looking forward to representing my country again, hopefully putting a point on the board.

“It is difficult conditions, but we get that on the (ATP) Tour as well. It is about getting a win here, it doesn’t matter how, if it is pretty or if it is ugly.”

Despite the unfamiliar conditions, Britain should still be favourites to win the tie, considering all three of their singles players are in the world’s top 40.

Colombia doubles player Farah said: “The pressure is on them, but we are playing home and we have the experience of the altitude, and we have to hold on to that.

“Anything can happen here. This is Davis Cup and nothing is written in stone.”

The winning nations will reach the 16-team Davis Cup Finals group stage in September, where Britain are again in line to be a host country if they progress.