Davis Cup Betting: Great Britain have reason for hope on the road to Rouen

Dan Evans brings passion to playing for his country
Dan Evans brings passion to playing for his country

Andy Murray will be missing when Britain take on France this weekend but Ralph Ellis, who can remember the debacle the last time they played on French soil, still fancies the chance of an upset.

"France start the weekend as 4.216/5 joint favourites along with Serbia to win the Davis Cup this year while, two years after lifting the trophy, Great Britain are as long as 12.5."

Somewhere in the vaults of the Lawn Tennis Association's offices in the posh London suburb of Roehampton there is a ceremonial bayonet.

It was presented by France's equivalent back in 1992 the last time the two countries met on French soil in the Davis Cup. I remember it well because a lovely old chap called Ian King, who back then was the LTA's chairman, couldn't understand why when we boarded the flight home from Bayonne he wasn't allowed to take it onto the plane with his hand luggage.

I was sent to cover that match, and frankly there couldn't have been a more apt gift. Great Britain's team of Jeremy Bates, Mark Petchey and Neil Broad were sliced up and gutted as France's gifted musketeers Henri Leconte and Guy Forget won 5-0.

Tony Pickard, who had coached Stefan Edberg to the Wimbledon title, had just taken over as captain and boasted that Britain's team had "rattled their cages" because Bates and Petchey both won a set. Back then our tennis was in such a state that we actually took the claim seriously.

Sorry for the trip down memory lane, but you could be forgiven for thinking that Leon Smith's team could be in for a similar hiding when they play France on clay courts in Rouen this weekend. The pun title of the Supergrass album "Road to Rouen" comes to mind.

France start the weekend as 4.216/5 joint-favourites along with Serbia to win the Davis Cup this year while, two years after lifting the trophy, Great Britain are as long as 12.5.

That's for the very good reason that Andy Murray, who you could argue became the only man to ever win a team trophy on his own in 2015, is absent from this tie while he nurses an elbow injury.

But that ignores the fact that the French have injury and unavailability problems of their own and that Murray's amazing exploits have inspired his team mates to make dramatic improvements since that epic triumph over Belgium.

This weekend there will be no Murray, but there will also be no Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, no Gael Monfils, and no Richard Gasquet. And while Lucas Pouille and Gilles Simon are both in the top 30 of the world rankings, they are neither of them so much better than Dan Evans and Kyle Edmund who are currently placed 44 and 47 respectively.

Edmund especially showed in his performances against Canada earlier this year that he has the guts and the game to take on anybody outside the top 10 and give them a hard time. He was rather robbed of his moment of glory when teenage wild child Denis Shapovalov got himself defaulted by hitting the umpire with a ball he'd bashed away in a temper - but he was on his way to winning that tie in straight sets.

It will need both the British players to bring their A game, but both will have had a proper chance to prepare on clay and Smith seems to have the knack of bringing the very best from his second string when Murray is not around.

I'm not sure what sort of presentation the French Association will have in mind for this occasion. But I'd fancy a small punt at long odds on Britain bringing back something far more valuable - a place in the semi-finals.

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