Smith ponders second singles spot

Hampshire Chronicle: Ross Hutchins has been named as a reserve for GB's showdown with Italy Ross Hutchins has been named as a reserve for GB's showdown with Italy

James Ward and Dan Evans are vying for the second singles spot alongside Andy Murray in the Great Britain team for next week's Davis Cup quarter-final against Italy in Naples.

Ross Hutchins has recovered from cancer to be named as a reserve for Britain's first Davis Cup quarter-final in 28 years, but the intrigue prior to the April 4-6 contest now concerns whether Ward or Evans will be given the nod in the singles.

Colin Fleming is poised to combine with two-time grand slam champion Murray in the doubles after being selected ahead of Dom Inglot in the squad named by captain Leon Smith, who has a decision to make in the singles.

Stick with Ward, who beat Sam Querrey in San Diego in February in the 3-1 defeat of the United States.

Or twist, and go with Evans, who advanced to the semi-finals of the ATP event in Zagreb the following week and helped Britain to victory over Croatia and promotion to the world group last September.

Ward said on lta.org.uk: "Being part of a team is always different for us. You have other people to fight for as well as yourself. It's nice to fight for everyone.

"We're confident after winning the last match on clay. They're a strong team and that's probably their favourite surface so it will definitely be tough."

The winner of the match will play the victors of Kazakhstan v Switzerland in the Davis Cup semi-finals in September.

Hutchins returned to action in January after recovering from Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The 29-year-old's presence close to the squad should provide a welcome boost.

"It's an amazing opportunity for me, very exciting," Hutchins said.

"I was involved last year. I went to Croatia and to Coventry, for the Russia tie.

"Now, being back as part of the squad, hopefully we can go there and play some good stuff on the clay.

"This is the level we want to be. Now we're down to the final eight. We want to take this opportunity."

Murray, Ward and Fleming all took part in the 3-1 defeat of the United States in February, while Dan Evans returns to the squad after having last played in September 2013 when Britain beat Croatia to gain promotion to the World Group.

Smith said: "We have selected our top three singles players for the squad who between them have the most Davis Cup experience which is what we need for this tie.

"Obviously we are delighted that Andy is playing, and both Dan and James have enjoyed impressive Davis Cup wins over the last few years.

"We also have strong options in doubles. Andy and Colin have enjoyed success together before, having reached the final in Montreal last August and also winning their last Davis Cup doubles rubber against Croatia in September.

"Ross Hutchins could be brought into the final four depending on what options we feel are best for the tie. Both Colin and Ross also have a lot of Davis Cup experience between them."

Murray said: "It will be a good challenge playing on the clay in Italy.

"They have some very good clay-court players with a passionate crowd behind them.

"It will be a tough weekend and the games will be tight, but it's great playing in big matches like this in the World Group."

Italy have selected singles specialists Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi, who stand 14th and 33rd respectively in the world rankings, alongside Simone Bolelli and Paolo Lorenzi.

Lorenzi replaces Filippo Volandri in the only change to the team selected for the first-round match against Argentina.

Italy captain Corrado Barazzutti said: "It's a very prestigious and difficult match. We'll play on clay and we have a great chance to reach the Davis Cup semi-finals after many years.

"Britain will be a very difficult opponent but we have shown with the victorious trip to Argentina that we can handle anything."

Italy have won 11 of the 15 Davis Cup matches they have played against Britain.

Barazzutti won the deciding rubber in the last meeting between the teams, beating Colin Dowdeswell at the climax of the match in Telford in 1984.

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