Rusedski up for the singles

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Greg Rusedksi will play in the opening singles matches on Friday of Great Britain's Davis Cup tie against Austria, having convinced team captain Jeremy Bates of his fitness for a possible three five-set matches in three days.

Bates resisted any temptation to play either of the two youngsters in the four-man squad, Alex Bogdanovic, 20, and Andrew Murray, 17, the US Open junior champion, when he announced the line-up on Thursday. The tie in Pörtschach, south-east Austria, is a play-off for a place in next year's elite World Group, the 16 members of which compete for the cup.

The injury-prone Rusedski, 31, has appeared vulnerable over five sets in recent years, and there was speculation that he would be saved for Saturday's doubles with Tim Henman and if necessary for a reverse singles on Sunday. But Bates said: “Greg is fit and strong and most importantly he really wants to play. As a captain you really need people on the court who want to be there and Greg is in some of the best form he has had for a while.”

Rusedski added: “I haven't felt this good for about two years and I'm really motivated to go out there and play well. I'm really feeling up to playing all three matches whether they are all five-setters or not.”

Thursday's draw means Henman will open against Austrian number two Stefan Koubek, followed by Rusedski who faces a tough task against the hosts' top player Jürgen Melzer.

On Saturday, the British pair will seek to extend their unbeaten Davis Cup doubles run to nine matches, but have a difficult test against Julian Knowle and Melzer. Knowle was this year's men's doubles runner-up at Wimbledon in partnership with Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia.

Meanwhile, this year's Davis Cup reaches the semi-final stage on Friday with the two matches taking place in contrasting venues. The US play Belarus, the surprise team of the competition, in the more conventional Family Circle Tennis Centre, Charleston, whereas Spain host France in the less friendly setting of Alicante bullring.

Both home teams are favourites to reach the final, particularly the US, whose line-up consists of world number two Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish contesting the singles, and the twins Bob and Mike Bryan, one of the world's best pairs, in the doubles.

Belarus's progress in the competition should be an inspiration to Great Britain, for they also are very much a two-man team. Indeed Max Mirnyi, the number one, and number two Vladimir Voltchkov have much lower world rankings than their respective counterparts Henman and Rusedski. This year they have gained remarkable victories over first Russia and then Argentina, although fortune was on their side when injuries robbed the Argentines of some of their star players.

The other semi-final is between the two most successful Davis Cup countries of recent years, for one or the other of Spain and France have featured in every final since 1999. However, Spain's clay-court specialists Carlos Moya and Juan Carlos Ferrero, assisted by doubles duo Rafael Nadal and Tommy Robredo, are expected to put a weakened French team to the sword in the converted Plaza de Toros de Alicante.

France are missing their best player, Sébastien Grosjean, who may not play again this year because of a thigh injury. In his absence captain Guy Forget has unexpectedly selected Fabrice Santoro and Paul Henri-Mathieu for the singles berths. Santoro, the 31-year-old veteran with an array of unorthodox shots, has been recalled after patching up a dispute with Forget earlier this year. He will also play in the doubles, partnered by Michael Llodra.

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