Great Britain’s win in the 2015 Davis Cup marked the end of a 79 year drought in this competition, and it was that man the world number two, Andy Murray, who led GB to victory. The Scot featured in eight of the nine rubbers in 2015, and has only lost once in his Davis Cup career. Joining Andy Murray to represent the Brits is, Dan Evans, who came in as a late replacement for GB number two, Kyle Edmund, who unfortunately suffered a back injury in training. Evans has Davis Cup previous as he helped GB to victory in last year’s tournament, and despite his ranking of 157th in the world, he has proved time and time again that he is a big game player. In the doubles for GB, are Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot. A pair of vastly experienced doubles players, Jamie Murray is in particularly good form, coming into this tie as Australian Open Champion.
Japan’s stand out player in this tie is world number six, Kei Nishikori, and he comes into this one in good form as well having just won the Memphis Open- his eleventh ATP World Tour Title. But apart from Nishikori, the team is filled with relative unknowns. Joining him in the singles competition will be Taro Daniel, ranked 87th in the world, a man with just one grand slam appearance to his name. And taking on Murray and Inglot in the doubles for Japan is, Yoshihito Nishioka and Yasutaka Uchiyama, a hugely inexperienced pair, in contrast to Murray and Inglot, whose world doubles rankings combine to make a hefty 743.
On the first day of play, Friday 4 March, the first two singles rubbers will take place- Andy Murray versus Taro Daniel first and then Dan Evans versus Kei Nishikori. In what will be Murray’s first tournament since the birth of his first child, he may well be a tad rusty, but there will be few who bet against him on home turf, as he bids to help GB retain their Davis Cup title. As for the second encounter, Nishikori ranks 151 places higher than Evans, but this game is no foregone conclusion- as in their only previous match up, Evans took the win (3-0, US Open 2013). Though it is difficult to see Evans overcoming the world number six in this particular match.
On day two of this tie, Saturday 5 March, Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot will take to the court in a bid to win their own rubber against the Japanese pairing. Again you’d think the British pairings vast experience and higher rankings would give them an easy win, but the Japanese definitely have youth on their side- and it could just be the game that thrusts the pair into the limelight.
Closing out the tie on Sunday 6 March, is the second round of singles rubbers. First up will be Andy Murray versus Kei Nishikori, arguably the biggest and most important rubber of this tie. You would expect Nishikori to push Murray to the peak of his abilities, but Murray does have a positive record in their previous match ups. Interestingly, in all the World Group games of this first round of the Davis Cup, Murray v Nishikori is the only rubber involving two top ten players. Following that will be Dan Evans vs Taro Daniel, the most difficult rubber of this GB vs Japan match up to call. Daniel does have a higher ranking on his side, but Evans’ home Birmingham crowd will be willing him on, and his big game experience will surely come to his aid.
All in all, it is set to be an enthralling three days of tennis at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena, with GB looking to begin the defence of their Davis Cup crown.
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Matt Bullin – Head of Sport