Great Britain's hopes of reaching the Davis Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1981 were dealt a blow when Andy Murray picked up an illness on the eve of the tie against Italy.

The British number one, who was reported to be suffering from a stomach bug, was unable to attend the draw ceremony in Naples on Thursday.

The team were, though, hopeful he would be fit to practise later on Thursday at Tennis Club Napoli before playing the second singles match against Andreas Seppi on Friday.

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The draw gave Murray a bit of extra time to recover, with James Ward playing the first singles rubber against Italian number one Fabio Fognini.

Ward was given the nod over the higher-ranked Dan Evans by captain Leon Smith on Thursday.

The Londoner's selection was not a surprise given his stunning win over the USA's Sam Querrey in February, which helped Britain to a first World Group victory in 28 years.

Evans dropped out of the four-man team altogether and was replaced with Ross Hutchins, leaving Smith's options open for what could be a crucial doubles rubber on Saturday.

Plan A would have been for Murray to team up with fellow Scot Colin Fleming, but if it is felt that is too much for the Wimbledon champion, Hutchins will make his first Davis Cup appearance since his fight against cancer.

Italy went into the tie as favourites even before news about Murray's illness emerged.

Britain upset the US on clay but, in the absence of the injured John Isner, the surface ended up hampering the home side more than Smith's team.

The Italian team, on the other hand, is very much at home on clay and in world number 13 Fognini they have one of the season's strongest performers.

The talented but unpredictable 26-year-old already has an ATP Tour title and another final appearance on the surface in 2014 but is still affected by a thigh problem he suffered in his defeat by Rafael Nadal in Miami last week.

Seppi, ranked 34th, is a very different character, solid and reliable from the back of the court, and it is a big ask for Ward to upset either player.

Smith, Murray's junior coach, has won eight of his nine ties since taking over as captain in 2010 and enhanced his reputation with each one.

He said at a press conference: "As usual there's been very good team spirit. We've got a really good bunch of guys, we get on great and we've had a good time.

"But it's also been very business-like. We're here to do a job. We believe we can win, which is important. We really feel that we've earned the right to be here.

"There's a few challenges: they've got a very strong team, obviously we're away from home again and I think the crowd will play a part, and the surface.

"But I think we're strong enough mentally and we've got enough quality to put up a really good fight."

Murray has struggled to rediscover top form this season after back surgery but one of his best weeks came in San Diego and the 26-year-old appears highly motivated to do well in Davis Cup.

There were promising signs in Miami last week but his quarter-final loss to Novak Djokovic saw him drop to eighth in the rankings, his lowest spot since 2008.

Beating Fognini would represent one of his best wins ever on clay.

The venue, meanwhile, does not hold happy memories for Murray, who recalled losing in qualifying at a lower-tier event when he was a teenager.

He said: "I didn't remember I'd been here and then when I actually turned up to the club, I was like, 'I'm sure I played on that court'. I was probably 16 or 17."