When Great Britain were drawn to face Canada in the opening World Group tie of the Davis Cup, a showdown involving world number one Andy Murray and 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic was highly-anticipated but within days of each of them losing at the Australian Open, it was revealed that neither would take their place in their respective squads for the clash in Ottawa. However, regardless of the high-profile absentees, the two nations will be led by players eager to impress for their country and while the Canada vs. Great Britain betting odds currently favour the visitors, it means that the home team can currently be backed at very attractive odds in the Davis Cup of 13/5.
Leon Smith's side possess the tag as favourites due to their famous triumph in 2015, while they also displayed their credentials when being edged out in last year's competition at the semi-final stage. Their defeat to Argentina - who won both rubbers on the final day - was difficult to take for a group of players and staff who had become used to winning - a contrasting feeling to their struggles of previous years - but it has been a considerable period of time since they were left to start their campaign without their leading man.
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Last July, Murray did not play in the last-eight fixture in Serbia - with Great Britain instead being indebted to two victories from Kyle Edmund - but this tie takes on extra importance due to the consequences if they fail to win on Canadian soil. While Great Britain are now considered one of the strongest teams in the competition in terms of both quality and togetherness, losing to Canada would see them without a tie until the middle of September where they would face a battle to preserve their top-tier status.
Great Britain will be led by Dan Evans, who is coming off the best performance of his career in reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open. Wins over both Marin Cilic and Bernand Tomic put the Birmingham-based player into the spotlight during his time in Melbourne before he was eventually defeated by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in four sets. While disappointed, Evans should take the positives from his experiences of Australia, especially having previously reached the Apia International final in Sydney. After a short break, he enters this tie as the form horse but as the top-ranked player, it remains to be seen whether he can continue at a high level when faced with the responsibilities which come hand in hand with being seen as the team's leader on the court.
Evans will be backed up by Edmund, who has slipped a couple of places below his compatriot in the world rankings. It is a change which Evans has probably joked about with his fellow Brit in the build-up to this tie but while light-hearted, Edmund will be keen to begin the process of regaining his status as British number two and that can start in Ottawa. The 22-year-old's defeat to Pablo Carreno Busta in Melbourne would have hurt and after an excellent end to 2016, he now has to show some resolve ahead of a period where he also has plenty of ranking points to defend on the ATP Tour.
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As for Canada, while Daniel Nestor will feature in the doubles, they have options to choose from in the singles with Vasek Pospisil, Peter Polansky and Denis Shapovalov all vying for spots in the opening two rubbers. Pospisil has the experience of featuring as high as 29 in the world rankings, but Polansky is the form player and 17-year-old Shapovalov is regarded as the future of Canadian tennis and holds a win over Nick Kyrgios, so each of the trio can argue that they warrant a place in the side. Nestor and Pospisil are expected to team up in the doubles and with both players being ranked inside the top 25 of the world rankings, they will pose a considerable to threat to Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot in a middle rubber which could potentially prove decisive by Sunday afternoon.
Without Murray and Raonic to register what would have probably been routine victories, there is a feeling that any scoreline is possible in this tie. While Canada will rely on power on the indoor court in their nation's capital, Evans will look to enforce his unique game and Edmund will look to display the full variety of his forehand. As mentioned, the betting odds favour the visitors but once the lineups are confirmed on Thursday, there is sure to be plenty of value available for whoever you choose to back.