Stirling University’s Barmy Army have again travelled in numbers to support Great Britain’s Davis Cup team
The unofficial cheerleaders have made the 6,000 mile round trip to support the team in their first round tie against hosts Canada. However, they will have to overcome their opponents without their first choice player, Andy Murray.
Great Britain captain Leon Smith confirmed earlier this week that Murray will not compete at all over the weekend. Speaking to BBC Sport, Smith said “It’s the right thing for him to do what he’s doing, stay at home, get some rest…we all miss Andy because he is such a great influence on the team both on and off the court. Like we saw last year [in the match against Serbia when he watched as a spectator], he puts a lot of interest and care into this team.”
Dan Evans, Kyle Edmund, Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot make up the team and will go into the tie with real confidence having learned that Canada’s talisman, world number three Milos Raonic, has also pulled out of the tie with an injury. This means the hosts are without any singles players in the world’s top 100.
The Davis Cup should be savoured while it lasts; despite the 117-year-old competition being staged in 58 countries and featuring 618 players from 124 different nations last year, the tournament’s importance has been called into question. This weekend, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic is the only member of the world’s top 10 in action.
There is once again no Roger Federer or Stan Wawrinka for Switzerland; Rafael Nadal was a late withdrawal from the Spain team; Japan’s Kei Nishikori is preferring to play ATP Tour events in Buenos Aires and Rio later in the month; and last year’s runners-up, Croatia, will have to do without Marin Cilic. Their number one player for the week is Franko Skugor who is outside the world’s top 200.
This is not sustainable and will inevitably result in dwindling crowds at what should be a highlight in the tennis calendar.
Something needs to change in order to amend the growing trend of top players preferring to take time out to rest, rather than represent their country. Several ideas have been discussed by the Association of Tennis Players (ATP) to combat this, including reducing five set matches to 3, scheduling the Davis Cup events in different weeks so it doesn’t run so close to the Australian Open and the US Open, increasing the amount of ranking points and increased financial rewards.
However, none of these issues will cross the minds of any of the travelling fans from Stirling, as they look to create the usual raucous atmosphere that has become synonymous with the Scottish students and cheer the British boys to victory.
Play begins tonight [3/2/17] with Dan Evans taking to court first against 17 year old Denis Shapovalov, followed by the second singles match between Kyle Edmund and Vasek Pospisil.
Coverage starts at 20:00 GMT on the BBC red button and will continue on BBC Two from 23:05