Andy Murray believes Great Britain can win the Davis Cup again this season and is happy to play his part on or off the court.
The former world number one is among a five-man team for this week’s group stage in Manchester, along with Cameron Norrie, Dan Evans, Jack Draper and Neal Skupski.
Quite what Murray’s role will be remains to be seen and, speaking after his disappointing second-round loss to Grigor Dimitrov at the US Open, the Scot questioned whether he deserved his place.
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But the 36-year-old cut a much more positive figure at a press conference at the AO Arena on Monday, saying: “At that moment, straight as I came off the court, I wasn’t in a great place after losing in a slam.
“I said (to captain Leon Smith), if I’m not needed, I completely get that. But, for whatever reason, he asked me to come and I said I would come.
“I’ve always loved playing Davis Cup and any event where you’re competing for your country. We have a great group of guys, I love being part of this team, we’ve got great staff as well. Everyone gets on extremely well.
“I do genuinely believe the team can win the event. That’s huge motivation to be a part of it. I want to help the team in any way I can, whether that’s on the court or off. We’ll see what happens.”
Are you ready for Group B?
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Britain have been drawn in an intriguing group with Australia, France and Switzerland and must finish in the top two to book their spot at the finals week in Malaga in November.
It is now eight years since Murray led Britain to the Davis Cup title virtually single-handed.
There is no doubt Britain have a stronger overall team now, but with that come selection difficulties for Smith and he faced criticism for choosing Murray and Joe Salisbury as his doubles pair as they crashed out at the same stage in Glasgow 12 months ago.
Salisbury won his third consecutive US Open title with American Rajeev Ram on Saturday but did not make the team, with Smith likely to rely on Skupski and Evans in doubles, while the most intriguing question mark is whether he will throw in 21-year-old Draper fresh from his run to the fourth round in New York.
He has had a hugely frustrating season with injuries but is a major talent who will surely lead the team in the not-too-distant future, while Norrie and Evans have both had patchy seasons.
“I think we’ve got our best five here,” said Smith. “Obviously we’ve got strength in depth, especially on the doubles side. In terms of selection for the matches, it’s good. You want a strong squad, different options, because it is a long week. I’m just delighted they’re all here.”
Draper was named in the team for the first time for February’s tricky assignment away in Colombia, where victory secured their progress to this point.
“I feel great,” said the Londoner, who was hitting with fit-again former British number one Kyle Edmund on Monday.
“Obviously New York gave me a real boost after quite a tough season. When Leon asked me to join the guys I was really excited and wanted to be here.
“I haven’t been part of a Davis Cup group playing at home. It’s amazing to be part of this team and I’m very grateful for the selection and happy to be around these boys for sure.”
Britain’s biggest challenge is likely to come on Wednesday when they take on last year’s runners-up Australia, led by in-form world number 12 Alex de Minaur.
Crowds of around 8,000 are expected for that tie and the one on Friday against Stan Wawrinka’s Switzerland, while a sell-out of more than 13,000 on Sunday for the final match against France will be the biggest for a Davis Cup contest in Britain.
There are other groups taking place in Bologna, Split and Valencia, where Serbia and Spain will do battle, although a Wimbledon final rematch between Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz will no longer happen following the Spaniard’s withdrawal.