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8 March 2016, 07:08
Davis Cup captain Leon Smith sees no reason why Great Britain cannot continue their fairytale run by beating Serbia and has backed Andy Murray to upset Novak Djokovic.
Murray produced another exceptional battling performance to defeat Kei Nishikori in five sets on Sunday and earn Britain victory over Japan and a quarter-final in Serbia in July.
That represents probably the toughest test in the competition at the moment, with Serbia boasting not just world number one Djokovic but three other top-100 players as well as leading doubles player Nenad Zimonjic.
But Smith disputed that it represented a big step up, citing the victory over 2014 finalists France at the same stage last year that really set Britain on their way to a first title in 79 years.
Smith said: "It's difficult but I'm not sure it can get much tougher than what we played against France at Queen's Club and their rankings, the depth that they had.
"Every match is difficult, that's the nature of the competition, and, at the end of the day, we're also a very strong team. It's not easy for them when you look at our list of players now.''
Murray has already committed to the tie despite a hectic summer schedule and that may well persuade Djokovic to follow suit.
Djokovic has dominated his former junior rival recently, losing just one of their last 12 meetings, and beat Murray for a fourth time in the Australian Open final in January.
But there was certainly hope to be taken for Britain in Serbia and Djokovic's struggles against Kazakhstan at the weekend.
Djokovic and Zimonjic lost the doubles to trail 2-1 in the tie and Djokovic then had to fight back from two sets to one down to beat Mikhail Kukushkin in a five-hour epic before Viktor Troicki completed the win.
Murray's record in Davis Cup is exceptional, with only two singles losses from 31 matches, and Smith said: "Andy can beat anyone - including Novak.
"And Davis Cup is different, you see that with performances like the one Kei put out. He got really close to Andy.
"It is a different environment, you have got your team-mates on the side of the court. You have got home and away support.
"Look at Novak's match, it is not straightforward is it? It is an amazing competition that way. Funny things happen.''
Smith admitted to mixed feelings over Djokovic's participation in the tie.
The Scot said: "If he does play then of course it's a big, big occasion having to play Novak in a home tie in Serbia, and it will obviously be massive talking about the number one versus the number two player in the world.
"Massive coverage and a huge tie. Of course in that way it's better, but if he doesn't play then it gives us a better opportunity.''
Smith hailed Murray as a "man of steel'' after his efforts in beating Nishikori at a raucous Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham.
Having won the first two sets, Murray's lack of match action appeared to catch up with him as he faded in the third and fourth.
But, as he always seems to do, he found a way to raise his level in the fifth set and emerged victorious after four hours and 54 minutes.
Smith said: "I know who I would like to go out for my team and it is Andy. Yet again he shows why. It is a privilege to sit with him in that chair, as much as it might seem stressful.
"Everyone sees him and he looks so angry at times but he is not, once he gets it out of his system he actually becomes quite focused quite quickly, he manages to regain what he is out there trying to achieve.
"It is just getting him to speak - that is the most important thing. It is not about what I say. I could sit there and say nothing, that is quite easy, and just handle the awkward silence but I know him really well and we are all really close.''