Federer draws world No. 262 in Davis Cup playoff
GENEVA -- Runaway world No. 1 Roger Federer drew a little-known Scot on Thursday as Britain's Davis Cup captain Jeremy Bates took a surprise approach to this weekend's World Group playoff against Switzerland.
Living up to his promise of playing the tie tactically, Bates nominated world No. 262 Alan Mackin to face Federer in Friday's opening singles rubber, in place of the British team's top player Greg Rusedski.
Rusedski is expected to be brought in for Sunday's reverse singles, allowing Britain to concentrate their firepower on the matches against Swiss No. 2 Stanislas Wawrinka as well as on Saturday's doubles rubber.
British No. 3 Andy Murray will be the first to take on Wawrinka when the two meet in Friday's second singles rubber.
Rusedski and Murray will then pair up against Federer and Swiss doubles specialist Yves Allegro in the doubles.
Britain will hope to still be in contention after Murray's rubber with Federer on Sunday -- allowing Rusedski to come in for a decisive match against Wawrinka.
"I don't think the Swiss will have been expecting [that]," Bates told reporters following the draw. "It also puts a lot of pressure on Wawrinka who will now play his first match against Murray.
"When it comes to choosing someone to play Federer, we have to look at things realistically. I'm not prepared to throw anything away, but we are definitely looking to transfer the pressure back on to them -- and onto Wawrinka in particular."
Mackin was born just three days after Federer but age is about the only thing the two 24-year-olds have in common.
Once ranked No. 1 in Scotland, before the sudden rise of Murray, Mackin has had his best run of results this year at a lower-tier challenger tournament in Nottingham, England, where he won two matches before going out in the quarterfinals.
His only previous Davis Cup experience came in 2003 when he was beaten 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 by Mark Philippousis during Brtain's World Group first-round loss to Australia.
"I'm going to go out and enjoy myself and just see what happens," a relaxed-looking Mackin said on Thursday.
"Playing Federer will obviously be very different from other opponents I've faced but I mustn't think about it too much."
If Bates had wanted to raise a few eyebrows among the Swiss team, it seems that he succeeded.
"Yes, I was surprised," Federer said during the Swiss team's media conference. "You always keep in mind the various options that are there, but I thought it might be Murray that they would leave out. I'm sure they have their reasons though.
"I'm happy not to be playing Murray in my first match though, and I think Stan is pleased not to be playing Rusedski, who he has never beaten.
"The danger for me against Mackin will be in not knowing him at all. I'll have to try and find out today how he plays and what his results have been. Of course my own game should be enough to get me through. But this is Davis Cup, and we are on clay so I still see it as a challenge for me to get the first point for Switzerland."
Assuming Federer has no difficulty in securing that opening point, the second rubber between Murray and Wawrinka could go a long way towards deciding the tie.
The 20-year-old Swiss and 18-year-old Briton are both seen as future stars in their home countries and share a liking for clay -- having both spent time at separate training camps in Barcelona during their youth.
Currently ranked 110th in the world, Murray will have to overcome an opponent ranked fifty places above him -- as well as a partisan Swiss crowd -- if he is to keep the British game-plan alive.
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