Preview: Davis Cup: Croatia vs. Great Britain

Sports Mole previews the Davis Cup World Group playoff clash between Croatia and Great Britain in Umag.

Great Britain begin their attempt to regain a spot in the World Group of the Davis Cup on Friday when they play the opening two singles matches against Croatia.

Headed by the return of world number three Andy Murray, the team will be confident of seeing off the challenge of the home nation in Umag, who are missing the big-serving Marin Cilic.

However, their chosen surface of clay is likely to play its part in ensuring that the tie is a competitive one, with a 3-2 victory for either side the most likely outcome.

Below, Sports Mole takes a look at both teams' lineups, and who will prevail on Sunday.


Ivan Dodig of Croatia returns a forehand to Lleyton Hewitt of Australia during the BB&T Atlanta Open in Atlantic Station on July 26, 2013© Getty Images
Croatia

Croatia must rely on the ability of world number 35 Ivan Dodig if they are to hold any realistic ambitions of overcoming Great Britain.

The 28-year-old has been installed as the home side's leading player, with Marin Cilic continuing to fight claims of a failed drugs test earlier in the year.

Dodig picked up victories over Cilic and Nikolay Davydenko during the clay court season, but a first-round exit at Roland Garros suggests that he doesn't play his best tennis on the surface.

The remainder of the squad possesses little experience, with world number 205 Antonio Veic failing to win on the ATP Tour this season.

Their wildcard could be 16-year-old Borna Coric, who enhanced his growing reputation by winning the US Open boys' singles title last week.


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

The return of Andy Murray is a huge boost for Great Britain, but while he becomes an automatic first-pick, he will have to get over the disappointment of his US Open quarter-final defeat to make the necessary impact against Dodig.

However, his experience will prove invaluable to a side who have reached this position thanks to the heroics of Dan Evans and James Ward.

Both played superbly to lead Great Britain to a dramatic victory over Russia earlier this year, and each player could argue that they deserve the second spot in the opening singles rubbers.

Despite Ward being the more competent on clay, Evans has been given the nod after he recorded wins over Kei Nishikori and Bernard Tomic at Flushing Meadows.

The squad is completed by doubles player Colin Fleming, the current world number 17, and his performance with Murray on Saturday could prove to be the decisive rubber by the end of the tie.

Prediction:

After the draw kept Murray and Dodig apart for the opening single rubbers, the tie is likely to be 1-1 after the first day, unless Evans can cause a surprise against the Croatian number two.

The doubles match could go either way, but despite Dodig previously being a top-20 doubles player, the experience of Murray and Fleming should see Great Britain into a 2-1 advantage.

The key day will be Sunday, and with Murray and Dodig scheduled to open proceedings, the tie could be done and dusted in the away team's favour.

However, if Dodig can rise to the home crowd and defeat Murray, that could leave Evans and 16-year-old Coric to do battle for a place in the echelons of the World Group.

Leon Smith
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