Australian Davis Cup captain Wally Masur says it’d be foolish to disrespect the Andy Murray-inspired British team as a one-man band.
The Australians arrived in the UK on Friday for a week-long preparation for the eagerly-awaited semi-final in Glasgow, where Murray is again expected to play singles and doubles.
The world No.3 won both his singles rubbers and teamed with brother Jamie for a crucial doubles triumph over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Nicolas Mahut in Britain’s quarter-final victory over France.
With world No.135 James Ward serving as the hosts’ No.2 singles player, Murray will again likely need to pick up all three points for Britain to advance to their first Davis Cup final since 1978.
Apart from his lowly ranking, Ward is stuck in a seven-match losing rut and has suffered no less than seven defeats in 2015 to players outside the world’s top 200.
But Masur, a two-time Davis Cup winner as a player before taking over the Australian captaincy from Pat Rafter this year, knows all form goes out with the window in the century-old teams’ event.
Ward’s epic five-set victory over world No.13 John Isner – 15-13 in the deciding set – ultimately proved decisive in Britain’s stirring 3-2 first-round win over the United States at the same indoor hardcourt venue that will be used for next week’s semi-final.
“People talk a lot about Andy Murray, but James Ward is a really good team player and he seems to have that ability to lift,” Masur told AAP.
“He certainly did in Glasgow. The crowd really lifted him and we certainly can’t negate his impact for the Great Britain team.”
Australian No.2 Nick Kyrgios has been overlooked for the tie but, as much as Masur knows fans at the Emirates Stadium would have niggled the temperamental youngster, he says every player in the visiting team’s ranks will be feeling the heat from the pro-British crowd.
“I watched a little bit of the first-round tie in Glasgow and I’ve got to say I really liked it,” Masur said.
“The ties that tennis fans remember and the ties that I remember are ones where we went down to South America where the crowds were firing up.
“The crowd were really good for the Great Britain team and it’ll be a tough environment for us and that’s what’s going to make this a really exciting tie.”
Despite his poor recent form, further evidence of Ward’s ability to rise to the occasion came at Wimbledon two months ago when the 28-year-old charged to the third round before bowing out in five sets to highly-rated Canadian Vasek Pospisil.