Great Britain will face a testing time in the inaugural ATP Cup tennis tournament in Australia in January, having been drawn in the same group as Roger Federer’s Switzerland, and Belgium.
Britain only made it into the 24-team event by virtue of Andy Murray using his protected ranking of No 2 in the world, which the Scot has been afforded in his comeback from the two hip operations that have kept him off the singles court for most of the past two years.
But the draw for the $15 million (£12.02 million), three-city ATP season-opening tournament could have been kinder for the British, likely to also feature world No 32 Kyle Edmund.
Aside from drawing Switzerland, Group C will also contain a Belgian team likely to include world No 14 David Goffin, with the fourth team yet to be determined.
Monday’s draw for the 10-day long tournament, which took place at the Sydney Opera House, put the top-ranked 18 nations into groups, as well as hosts Australia. The final five qualifying countries will be announced in mid-November.
Group C will play its round robin matches in Sydney, as will Group E, which so far comprises Austria, Croatia, and Argentina.
Group A, including Novak Djokavic’s Serbia, France and South Africa, will play its opening matches in Brisbane, as will Group F, made up of Germany, Greece, Canada and Australia.
Perth will host the round robin matches for Group B – Spain, Japan, Georgia and one other – and for Group D, which so far includes Russia, Italy and the USA.
The top team of each of the six groups, plus the two best-performed second placegetters, will advance to the knock-out stages, to be held in Sydney.
Under the tournament’s accelerated format, each tie with comprise two three-set singles matches, and one doubles contest which will include a match tiebreaker instead of a third set.
Had Britain needed to rely on Edmund’s ranking of 32, they would not have qualified in the initial 18 and would have been outsiders for the final six teams.
Murray’s protected ranking comes from the position he held before the two hip operations that forced him off the singles court for the majority of the last two years.
His current ranking is actually 415, making him the British number 13.
He returned to the singles court last month and will play in four straight tournaments in China and Belgium beginning in Zhuhai on September 23 as he builds up his fitness and match sharpness.