GB captain Leon Smith aiming to make Davis Cup call sooner rather than later

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Leon Smith is close to deciding who will be Great Britain's second singles player for the Davis Cup final against Belgium next weekend.

Smith named a five-man squad on Tuesday and must decide between in-form rookie Kyle Edmund and Davis Cup stalwart James Ward for the clash in Ghent.

The captain has until next Thursday to formalise his line-up, and has not been afraid to make late decisions in previous ties, but this time he is planning to have made the call much sooner

He said: " Ideally I'd like to decide as early as possible so whoever plays gets their head around it and, importantly, we can be very specific in our preparations.

"It definitely dictates how you can practise on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, because you would mimic the way they're sparring against who we think is the most important match for that number two player.

"And also, of course, to allow some time for what would be major disappointment for the persons that aren't playing, because it's big for them."

Smith has just returned from South America where he had travelled with Ward and Edmund to give them some matches on clay ahead of the tie at the Flanders Expo.

Edmund seized the opportunity to impress his captain by winning a Challenger title in Buenos Aires, which appeared to put the 20-year-old in pole position.

It would be a big call to give the Yorkshireman a debut in the final but, tellingly, Smith said he did not see experience as "the be all and end all of everything".

He added: "It all goes into the mixer. I'm quite far down the line with it but there's a few things I need to weigh up. Probably a few more days just to chew it over and then importantly try and communicate with the players as soon as possible."

One option not available to Smith is British number two Aljaz Bedene, who had his appeal against ineligibility for the British team postponed until March.

The 26-year-old, who is currently barred from representing his adopted country having previously played for Slovenia, had appeared to get the backing of Andy and Jamie Murray prior to the scheduled hearing on Tuesday.

Smith stopped short of saying he would definitely have picked Bedene, but said: " It would clearly have been a big positive for our team if we'd had him at least available for consideration.

"I don't know for sure if I would have played him. I'd have talked to him about it, obviously Andy and a couple of other people, but he's British. He should be available for selection.

"It made it a bigger deal because it's the final but this could have been resolved quicker. I really hope we're not sitting until after the next tie waiting for the decision because that certainly wouldn't be right."

Whoever gets the nod between Ward and Edmund, the weight of expectation sits primarily on the shoulders of Andy Murray, who has won all eight of the Davis Cup rubbers he has played this season.

The world number two risked his chances of success at the ATP World Tour Finals in London by practising on clay in the build-up with the Davis Cup in mind.

Smith said: "His commitment has always been great for Davis Cup, the last decade. However, you watch him this year, it's unbelievable what he puts his body through, his mind through.

"So when it comes to how he's managed to slot in some indoor clay practices, movement sessions, in light of what is another big event here, just shows you his commitment to the team. It's second to none. I know how much this is going to mean to him."

Murray was well beaten by Rafael Nadal in his second match at London's O2 Arena but can still progress to the semi-finals with victory over Stan Wawrinka on Friday.

It is a straight fight for a place in the last four, a stage Murray has reached only twice since the tournament moved to London in 2009.

Strangely, Murray and Wawrinka have not played each other since a US Open quarter-final in 2013, which the Swiss won comfortably.

Wawrinka said: "It's going to be interesting for sure. We used to have some big battles in the past. He's having an amazing year, number two in the world. So dangerous indoors, especially at home."


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