Australia’s hopes of an instant Davis Cup success on clay have received a major boost with Japan’s top-ranked player, Go Soeda, yet to arrive in Brisbane.
He flies in to Brisbane Thursday morning – just 30 hours before the qualifying tie kicks off at Pat Rafter Arena on Friday afternoon.
Soeda’s 11th-hour arrival, after he returned from a challenger tournament victory in Ecuador via Japan, leaves his team with a major selection headache.
Japan captain Eiji Takeuchi says he will wait until he sees how the world number 155-ranked player looked before choosing his two singles players for Friday’s opening battles.
Already without their best player, Kei Nishikori, who is coming back from injury and opted to focus on preparing for the French Open, the visitors may now be forced to line up against Lleyton Hewitt and Peter Luczak with their second-stringers.
Australian captain John Fitzgerald will announce his singles selections before Thursday’s draw but Hewitt is a certainty and world number 71 Luczak is expected to tip out Carsten Ball.
After seeing his players rush to Brisbane last week, Fitzgerald was stunned by Soeda’s travel schedule which he believes will negate his current form.
“It’s interesting,” he said. “All I can do is get our boys ready and we feel that they are.
“(Soeda) is probably in pretty decent form but who knows – maybe that’s cancelled out when you fly from there to Japan and then down.
“That’s a lot of flying and it’s across time zones and when you get in a day before that’s a big ask and then to get on to a different surface and play five sets.
“And especially when we expect him to play doubles as well.
“That’s a big ask for anybody and we’re glad it’s not our problem.”
World number 193 Yuichi Sugita is sure to be one of Japan’s singles players while Tatsuma Ito and Takao Suzuki would be called on if Soeda is overlooked for first-day action.
Tennis Australia chose clay due to Japan’s lack of play on the surface, as well as Luczak’s proficiency on the red dirt.
The last time a Davis Cup tie was held in Brisbane was almost a decade ago, on a temporary grass court at QEII Stadium, which had previously been branded a potato field by Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the 1999 semi-final.
Pat Rafter Arena’s temporary clay court is receiving far better reviews following six days of practice.
“It’s a low-bouncing clay court but that’s normal for a temporary court and it’s holding up really well,” said Fitzgerald. “The court is not breaking up at all so I think it’s going to be a good court
“We’ve played on courts in Europe where clay is their specialty and we’ve played on some ordinary courts there – this appears to be a lot better than the majority there.”