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Last Updated: Monday, 5 April, 2004, 18:41 GMT 19:41 UK
Britain go into the unknown

By Jonathan Overend
BBC tennis reporter in Luxembourg

Great Britain's Davis Cup team must feel like they have been relegated from the Premiership to the Conference.

Gone are the days of massive venues like Birmingham's National Indoor Arena or Wimbledon's Number One court for World Group ties.

Tim Henman (left) and Greg Rusedski
Henman (left) and Rusedski will be in unfamiliar surroundings
Having slumped to the Euro/Africa zone, after losing to Morocco last September, Henman and co will play in a sports hall against Luxembourg this weekend.

The National Tennis Centre "Esch/Alzette" is like most indoor tennis facilities.

It has a couple of viewing balconies, some sweaty changing rooms and a drinks machine.

Temporary seating has been brought in for a few hundred spectators.

The Luxembourg Tennis Federation would have liked the option of playing at the National Centre for Sport and Culture - but ageing Canadian rocker Bryan Adams has booked out the main arena on Friday night.

The size of the venue, however, is in contrast to the size of this tie from a British point of view.

It is immense.

Britain will start strong favourites to move into the September play-offs, but Luxembourg surprisingly beat Finland in the last round.

Giles Muller
Luxembourg will rely heavily on Gilles Muller
Their inspiration was Gilles Muller, the 20-year-old former world junior champion, who beat talented top-50 player Jarkko Niemenen to set up the shock.

He has also established a useful doubles partnership with Mike Scheidweiler, their second-ranked player, and the pair have compiled seven victories together, losing just two rubbers.

Scheidweiler, 22, is ranked 461 in singles yet their third player, Gilles Kremer (way down at 884) was given the second singles berth for the Finland match.

Bates has a number of options after picking a team of Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski, Arvind Parmar and Jonny Marray.

With Rusedski short on match practice, it seems likely that the British number two will play either singles or doubles, but not both.

If Bates goes with his strongest line-up on the opening day, there could be a debut for Marray, 23, alongside Henman.

The Yorkshireman has won a series of futures doubles titles with Mark Hilton over the past two months and is in great form.

Tim Henman
Greg Rusedski
Arvind Parmar
Jonny Marray
Gilles Muller
Mike Scheidweiler
Gilles Kremer
Laurent Bram
However, perhaps a more likely option is to use the successful Henman/Rusedski partnership on the second day.

That would allow Arvind Parmar, who is still searching for a first Davis Cup victory, to play Muller in singles.

Parmar and Muller have played twice before; Parmar winning on clay at the Nottingham Challenger last year with Muller prevailing on a hard court in Brazil in 2002.

Parmar, 26, has long been haunted by losing the deciding rubber, from two sets up, against Ecuador's Giovanni Lapentti at Wimbledon in 2000.

Having won a challenger in Vietnam earlier in the year, the time could be right to throw the nation's third best player back into the Davis Cup arena.

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