Grigor Dimitrov stars for Bulgaria as player-captain, while Dan Evans leads Great Britain as both nations meet at the ATP Cup in Sydney on Friday.
The British team will be without former world No. 1 and three-time major winner, Andy Murray, who will miss the entire Australian summer due to a pelvic injury. In Murray’s absence, Daniel Evans and Cameron Norrie are set to take up singles responsibilities on Friday as they take on a Bulgarian team spearheaded by former world No. 3, Grigor Dimitrov.
— Jamie Murray (@jamie_murray) January 1, 2020
Great Britain: 1. Daniel Evans 2. Cameron Norrie 3. James Ward 4. Joe Salisbury 5. Jamie Murray. Captain: Tim Henmann.
Bulgaria: 1. Grigor Dimitrov 2. Dimitar Kuzmanov 3. Alexandar Lazarov 4. Alexander Donski 5. Adrian Andreev. Captain: Grigor Dimitrov.
Rubber 1: Cameron Norrie (GBR) vs Dimitar Kuzmanov (BUL), live from Sydney at 5.30pm local time (6.30am GMT)
British No. 2, Cameron Norrie will hope to give his country the lead when he takes on unheralded Bulgarian, Dimitar Kuzmanov in the opening rubber of this contest.
After breaking into the top 100 in 2018, Norrie solidified his position within that bracket in 2019, reaching as high as 41st on the ATP ranking. The left-hander had a great start to 2019, advancing to his maiden tour-level final in his opening event of the season in Auckland, while he subsequently made semi-finals in Acapulco and Atlanta. He also made the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters and ended the year at No. 53 in the world.
Norrie faded in the second half of last season, winning just five matches in his last eight main draw appearances, and failing to claim consecutive match wins since his semi-final run in Atlanta at the end of July. The 24-year-old Brit will hope for a much better start to 2020, and he has got an excellent opportunity to get his season off to a winning note when he confronts Bulgaria’s Dimitar Kuzmanov on Friday.
Kuzmanov is currently ranked 423rd in the world, and has never been higher than 249th in the rankings. He attained that career-high mark in December 2018, but couldn’t sustain the position in 2019. The 26-year-old spent most of his year on the ITF and Challenger tours, winning three ITF M15 titles- two in Antalya and one in Doha- and reaching a couple of semi-finals in Plovdiv and Nonthaburi. He struggled at higher-profile tournaments, with his best result at Challenger level being a third-round run in Jerusalem in May. He made just the one tour-level appearance, at his home tournament in Sofia, where he was beaten by Robin Haase.
Norrie and Kuzmanov met at an ITF event in Greece in 2014, with the Brit running away with a 6-1 6-1 victory. He goes into Friday’s contest as the firm favourite to get Great Britain off to a winning start in their ATP Cup campaign.
Rubber 2: Daniel Evans (GBR) vs Grigor Dimitrov (BUL), live from Sydney at 7.00pm local time (8.00am GMT)
With Cameron Norrie a heavy favourite to take down Dimitar Kuzmanov, Daniel Evans could have the chance to close out the tie in the day’s second rubber, but he faces a difficult task against former world No. 3, Grigor Dimitrov.
Evans put together a solid 2019, matching his career-high ranking of 41st in the process. The British No. 1 reached the final at Delray Beach, just missing out on a maiden tour-level title when he fell in a final set tie break to Radu Albot, while he made quarter finals in Eastbourne and Atlanta, and reached the third round at Wimbledon and the US Open. He had a fantastic season on the Challenger tour, winning titles in Surbiton and Nottingham, finishing second in Quimper and making the semi-finals at the Indian Wells Challenger.
The world No. 42 will have to hit the ground running in 2020, as he opens against Grigor Dimitrov, who had a strong finish to 2019 after a difficult couple of seasons. Dimitrov peaked at No. 3 in the world after winning the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals, but he endured a prolonged slump in the next couple of years, dipping as low as 78th at the start of last season’s US Open. However, Dimitrov launched a resurgence at Flushing Meadows, beating Roger Federer in five sets en route a semi-final run, while he made another big semi-final at the Paris Masters later in the year. The 28-year-old Bulgarian is back in the top-20, and will be looking to continue his upward trajectory in 2020.
Dimitrov owns a 2-1 record over Evans, beating the Brit in Eastbourne back in 2011, and in Chengdu last season, with Evans’ solitary victory coming in Washington in 2016. Both players are fine shot-makers, with single-handed backhands, making this a potentially very entertaining affair. Dimitrov is the better athlete, and perhaps, starts as a slight favourite. He will likely need to win to keep his country in the tie.
Can Evans even the head-to-head and possibly give Great Britain an unassailable 2-0 lead?
Rubber 3: Jamie Murray/Joe Salisbury (GBR) vs Alexandar Lazarov/ Adrian Andreev (BUL), to follow singles rubbers
If this tie comes down to a deciding doubles rubber, Great Britain will start as overwhelming favourites, with former doubles No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam double champion, Jamie Murray in their ranks. Murray will partner Joe Salisbury against Bulgarian young guns, Alexander Lazarov and Adrian Andreev. Lazarov has never broken into the top-400 in either singles or doubles, while teenager Andreev has a career-high singles ranking of 655. He doubles’ best is No. 1590. It is very possible that Dimitrov drafts himself into this rubber if the match is decisive.