World No 1 Novak Djokovic has said he is “optimistic” of playing for Serbia in the Davis Cup after recovering from the eye infection that curtailed his Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Djokovic, 28, was seemingly cruising his way to a fifth title in Dubai last week only to retire when trailing a set to Spain's Feliciano Lopez in the quarter-finals citing a problem with his eye.
The retirement constitutes Djokovic’s only defeat of 2016 and threw his Davis Cup participation into doubt.
However, the 11-time grand slam champion, who led Serbia to the 2010 Davis Cup title, is now expected to play for his country alongside Viktor Troicki against Kazakhstan.
“I am optimistic and I hope that I am going to play,” Djokovic said. “I was a little sceptical but now all is going well.”
Should Serbia, as expected, get past Kazakhstan, a showdown between the world’s top two players could be on the cards if reigning champions Great Britain navigate their way past Japan in the first round.
Similarly to Djokovic, Andy Murray’s involvement in the Davis Cup was uncertain due to his lack of match sharpness.
Murray, 28, did not played any competitive matches in February following the birth of his daughter, Sophia, and his last match was the Australian Open final defeat to Djokovic.
“It was very different to what I expected,” Murray said of adjusting to fatherhood. “I still practise hard and do all the same things I was doing before. I will find out if it is different on Friday or not.”
The key clash in Birmingham could come on Sunday when Murray takes on Japan’s top player, Kei Nishikori, the world No 6.
Murray holds a 5-1 career advantage over Nishikori ahead of the first Davis Cup clash between the two nations since 1931.
“Britain have one of the best teams with Andy and his brother (doubles player Jamie). It’s a great challenge,” Nishikori said.
Should Serbia and Britain emerge victorious, they will clash in the UK from July 15-17 for a place in the semi-finals with Murray already revealing that he intends to play.
DAVIS CUP NEWS
In Melbourne, former world No 1 and two-time grand slam winner Lleyton Hewitt could be drafted into action as a playing captain in the clash with the United States after Nick Kyrgios was ruled out through injury.
It is a matchup between the tournament’s two most successful nations, but the US won the last of their 32 titles in 2007. Australia captured their 28th and most recent crown in 2003.
In a shock move late Wednesday, Hewitt replaced Kyrgios in the squad despite having retired as a player after the Australian Open.
Hewitt, 35, is now ranked 301 in the world but boasts a formidable Davis Cup record of 42-14 in singles.
Bernard Tomic, the world 20, will play singles as will Sam Groth with Hewitt likely to only feature in Sunday’s doubles on the grass courts of Kooyong.
Top 30 players John Isner and Jack Sock will lead the United States’ hopes.
The winner of the tie will take on either last year’s runners-up Belgium or 2005 champions Croatia who meet in Liege.
Switzerland, the champions in 2014, go to Pesaro to face Italy without Roger Federer, who is recovering from knee surgery, and the resting Stan Wawrinka, who won his first Dubai title last week.
Instead their hopes will be spearheaded by 34-year-old Marco Chiudinelli whose ranking is a lowly 146.
The winner of that tie will face either Poland or Argentina who are playing in Gdansk.
Poland are in the World Group for the first time while Argentina, runners-up three times since 2006, are in the elite section for a 15th consecutive year.
The South Americans will be favourites to progress with two players — Leonardo Mayer and Guido Pella both in the top 50. Poland’s top singles player is Jerzy Janowicz ranked at 96.
Yannick Noah begins his second spell in charge of France in the Caribbean where Guadeloupe hosts the tie against Canada.
Nine-time champions France can count on top-10 stars Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet while Canada are reeling after world number 13 Milos Raonic withdrew with an adductor injury suffered at the Australian Open.
For France or Canada, a quarter-final with either Germany or the Czech Republic, the 2012 and 2013 champions, awaits.
They meet in Hanover with world No 7 Tomas Berdych making his 30th Davis Cup appearance for the Czechs.
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