When Leon Smith took his seat in the Melbourne sun yesterday to watch Dan Evans in qualifying action at the Australian Open, next month's Davis Cup tie was perhaps not immediately uppermost in his mind.

After watching Evans lose tamely in the second round of the qualifying event, though, Great Britain's captain may well have fast-forwarded three weeks to Britain's World Group first-round tie with the United States and begun to reconsider his options.

As the country's No.2 player behind Andy Murray, having reached the third round of the US Open last September and having shone under pressure on the Davis Cup stage before, Evans has shown that he has the talent to compete at the top level.

Loading article content

His disappointing 6-4, 6-1 loss to Marton Fucsovics of Hungary, a former junior Wimbledon champion, yesterday may just have opened the door for others to take the second singles spot behind Andy Murray.

Providing Murray is not struck down by injury or makes a late decision not to play in San Diego, Evans will be competing with James Ward and Kyle Edmund.

Ward lost meekly in the first round of qualifying here and Evans admits clay is his worst surface, so Smith may be tempted to go with Edmund, a 19-year-old who is ranked 374 and who spent three weeks training with Murray in Miami last month.

It's possible that Smith may hedge his bets and name a team of six, led by Murray, backed up by Evans and Edmund and three doubles players, leaving room to manoeuvre right up to an hour before the first singles.

Colin Fleming and Jonny Marray, who performed well together last year while Ross Hutchins convalesced after Hodgkin's Lymphoma, are a doubles option, especially as Fleming and Hutchins have yet to hit form since they renewed their partnership a fortnight ago.

With the US led by John Isner and likely to win both singles against the British No.2 selection, the doubles will take on even more significance. Dominic Inglot is in form but perhaps Jamie Murray could return to the fold, alongside his brother. Taking on the world No.1 pairing of Bob and Mike Bryan will be a huge task for whoever lines up for Britain but, if Murray wants to play doubles as well as singles, then Jamie must come into the reckoning.

A niggle in his lower back caused Jamie Murray to pull out of his semi-final in the ATP event in Auckland yesterday, a precaution with the Australian Open beginning on Monday. Murray and Peers have formed a formidable pairing in the past 12 months, narrowly missing out on a place in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.

The Wimbledon champion, meanwhile, stepped up his practice yesterday with a session lasting well over two hours in temperatures around the 30c mark at Melbourne Park. Under the gaze of his coach, Ivan Lendl, Murray worked himself into a sweat against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France and today he will stretch himself a little further in ever-increasing temperatures against Lleyton Hewitt in an exhibition at Kooyong.

Britain's No.1 woman, Laura Robson, appears set to risk a niggling injury in her left wrist to play in the women's event, with plenty of points to defend after reaching the third round last year. Robson is the only direct British entrant to the women's draw on ranking, but Heather Watson and Johanna Konta were bidding to reach the final round of qualifying by winning their second-round matches in the early hours of this morning.