Preview: USA vs. Great Britain

Sports Mole previews the Davis Cup clash between USA and Great Britain.

When Great Britain got the better of a weakened Croatian side in their World Group playoff in September, all eyes quickly focussed on who would lie in wait for Leon Smith's rejuvenated side for their first appearance in the top tier of the competition in several years.

A trip to face Rafael Nadal on the Spanish clay courts was feared, as was a journey to Belgrade to meet Novak Djokovic's Serbia, but when the draw was made, it pitted Great Britain with a trip to North America to face USA.

It could have been worse for a team headed by Andy Murray, but as Sports Mole suggests, Great Britain have a huge fight on their hands if they want to progress in the competition.

USA

US captain Jim Courier had selected John Isner for the tie in San Diego, but his plans have been hit by the 6'10" player being forced to withdraw from the tie with an ankle injury.

Isner's absence has resulted in Donald Young being drafted into the lineup, but while the American number three is ranked sufficiently higher than Great Britian's second player James Ward, he has never won a match at the French Open.

Teammate Sam Querrey has reached the third round at Roland Garros on three occasions, and while he would most likely get out-thought by Murray, he will be expected to get a win on the board against Ward

Much of the Bryan brothers' success has come away from the clay, but they have still won the title at Roland Garros on two occasions, while they still head the ATP doubles rankings by nearly 6,000 points.

They will be favourites to beat Colin Fleming and one of Murray or Dominic Inglot, but it's not a foregone conclusion that they will record a win in what could prove to be a decisive match in the tie.

Great Britain

Despite knowing his team's opponents for several months, Leon Smith has been unable to finalise his plans for the tie until he was assured of Andy Murray's fitness.

Andy Murray of Grerat Britain serves to Julien Benneteau of France during the Western & Southern Open on August 15, 2013© Getty Images

Murray may have lost to Roger Federer in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, but the Wimbledon champion came through with flying colours, and it's imperative that the Scot chips in with two wins if Great Britain are to stand the best possible chance of winning in San Diego.

After Dan Evans was dropped by Smith, the second position was handed to Ward ahead of youngster Kyle Edmund, who won a Futures tournament in Florida a couple of weeks ago.

Ward is ranked inside the world's top 200 but despite growing up on the clay courts in Spain, he has registered just one win during the first month of the year.

Smith will also be relying on his doubles team to surprise the home crowd by defeating Bob and Mike Bryan to try to ensure that USA don't open up an advantage going into the third and final day.

Prediction

As with many of Great Britain's Davis Cup ties, much will depend on Andy Murray. If the Scot can register two wins in the singles, then the visitors will have a great chance of causing a surprise in San Diego.

However, if there are any issues with Murray's transition from hard to clay, then Great Britain will be up against it against the more experienced Americans.

If all goes well with Murray, then expect Saturday's doubles encounter with the Bryan brothers to decide the victors of the tie, but the 15-time Grand Slam winners might have too much court-craft for the Brits. 3-2 to USA.

Kyle Edmund of Great Britain serves during previews ahead of the Davis Cup World Group play-off tie between Croatia and Great Britain at Stadion Stella Maris on September 12, 2013
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ATP RankingsPoints
1Scotland flag Andy Murray7,750
2Spain Rafael Nadal7,555
3Switzerland Roger Federer7,145
4Switzerland Stanislas Wawrinka5,780
5Serbia Novak Djokovic5,325
6Croatia Marin Cilic5,155
7Alexander Zverev4,470
8Austria Dominic Thiem4,030
9Japan Kei Nishikori3,285
10Canada Milos Raonic3,230
11Bulgaria Grigor Dimitrov3,070
12France Jo-Wilfried Tsonga2,770
13Belgium David Goffin2,560
14Spain Roberto Bautista Agut2,425
15Czech Republic Tomas Berdych2,390
16United States Jack Sock2,335
17Pablo Carreno Busta2,305
18Lucas Pouille2,220
19United States John Isner2,110
20United States Sam Querrey2,060
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