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Eaton rises to Lloyd's challenge

Jonathan Overend | 09:35 UK time, Thursday, 26 February 2009

Chris Eaton should have been in the British Davis Cup team for last year's debacle at Wimbledon against Austria, and he sure as hell should be in this time after winning a six hour 40 minute play-off match on Wednesday.

If you missed it, Eaton beat James Ward 21-19 in the fifth set on the second day of the mini-tournament to pick Andy Murray's Davis Cup team-mates for the forthcoming tie with Ukraine.

The match started at 10.40 in the morning and finished at 6.20 in the evening. Nobody can be in any doubt how much these players want selection - what an effort from both men.

A final round of matches is scheduled for Friday but John Lloyd may as well call it off now. Hasn't he seen enough?

Is he really going to turn around to Eaton and say "sorry mate, nice try winning that six hour match and everything - but I'm going with the other bloke." It would completely undermine the logic of the experiment.

Two places in the four-man team are available this week (doubles specialist Ross Hutchins is already picked along with Murray) and Josh Goodall has also impressed sufficiently to make it to Glasgow for next weekend's tie. He beat Alex Slabinsky in five sets on Wednesday and has two wins out of two, like Eaton.

Chris Eaton

The undefeated duo will square off on Friday to do the final part of John Lloyd's job for him - confirm who will play second singles alongside Murray. But it's completely unnecessary. Surely better to get them both in the team, conserve energy and to make a pick in Glasgow?

Eaton, 21, is suggesting again that he could be a man for the big occasion.

Why he wasn't selected for the last match back in September remains a mystery. Remember he qualified for Wimbledon last summer, won a round in the main draw and acquitted himself well against Dimitry Tursunov in the second round. His serve was a major weapon and said he felt at home on the big stage.

All of which presumably set him up nicely for a return to the same courts and a Davis Cup debut against Austria - only for captain Lloyd to ignore him in favour of Alex Bogdanovic. The result was so predictable as Britain lost 3-2 to confirm their relegation, and Eaton looked on, bemused.

In fairness, the Surrey man's form since that Wimbledon breakthrough has been disappointing, even at the third-tier Futures level, but he's turned it on this week using his big serve to good effect and looking comfortable at the net.

And if we're using these unique play-offs to search for clues about our lower-ranked players, we've learned a few things about Eaton:

1. He's got the stomach for a fight.
2. He can last the distance, and win.
3. He can confidently rely on his serve.

OK, he's still far from a world beater, but let's get him in the team now - same with the impressive Goodall.

There's no need for any further delay or wasted energy (could you imagine if the pair had another five setter on Friday?) - the side has surely been picked.

Which is unfortunate for James Ward, who could end the week with two wins and one narrow defeat, but his chance may come again.

Now it's up to Lloyd to put some work in himself.

His players have performed, now the captain needs to get them up to Glasgow, watch practice like a hawk, and use his own judgement to make the final decision about who plays second singles. That is what he is paid to do, after all.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Eaton wasn’t even selected for the play off initially; he only made it in after Jamie Baker pulled out. Same situation for the Wimbledon Qualifiers, he effectively got a WC into the qualifying as a lucky loser from the British play offs. His normal ranking wasn’t (and still isn’t despite winning the match at Wimbledon) high enough to allow him direct access to Grand Slam Qualifying.

    In competitive matches this year he has lost twice to Dan Evans, and to two players ranked outside the top 600. So I think serious questions need to be asked about his consistency and why he can only play at his best in certain situations, and that may be why Lloyd is cautious about picking him.

  • Comment number 2.

    I agree, it should be Eaton and Goodall, but even if they play a five setter on Friday they should be able to recover in time for the Davis Cup matches.

  • Comment number 3.

    Completely disagree. If you set up a round robin tournament, you see it through to the end. There will be more than one player on two wins and out of those players you need to decide who is good at both singles and doubles.

  • Comment number 4.

    Jonathan

    Spot on comments. I think the process is done. Slabinsky and Evans fought well but are clearly done for the week and their match off serves no purpose. Fleming lost clearly to Goodall and Ward was ousted by Eaton and just fall short. Again, playing and winning against each other isnt going to get them in. Having said that, Fleming is coming back nicely from his time off and must surely be a strong back up in singles and doubles and is probably worth having with the squad as a back up. Maybe Ward would also benefit as a practice partner. But Goodall and Eaton have shown they are both ready to step up and should now focus on the matter in hand.

    Lloyds job is now to determine which person plays first against Stakhovsky. My personal view would be put Eaton in and try and outserve Stakhovsky. If he succeeds, match is pretty much won. If it somehow comes down to the last rubber against the Ukraine number 2, maybe putting Goodall in at that point as a safe pair of hands would work.

    But for now, I agree, get them up to Glasgow, with the reserves, and get them prepping for the match!

    As an aside - all 6 players should have gained confidence this week. Lets hope we can see them all translate that to the Challenger and Futures circuits over the next few months.

  • Comment number 5.

    Another decent blog Jonny. I completely agree with you, i think Lloyd should now choose Goodall and Eaton for the DC tie and conserve their energy. I do feel sorry for James Ward, but i guess he will have to come back stronger next time. If im being honest, i would like to see Eaton get picked to play ahead of Goodall as we saw at Wimbledon a couple of years back, he loves the big occasion. I guess Llloyd will see how the final round of these play-offs go to see who wins out of Eaton and Goodall for the other singles place, so good luck to both of them.

  • Comment number 6.

    I disagree that John Llyod should call off the rest of the games. So what if Eaton and Goodhall have to play another 5 setter? The point of this trail was, I thought, to see who really wants this oppitunity the most AND to give the players as close a experience of playing tough competative tennis.

    That mean playing again after a tough match. Either one of these players may have to play two long singles matchs over a weekend in the Davis cup tie so they better get used to it. Further more as preparation for the tennis tour in general you dont get let off your next match just because you have had one tiring one.

    Did Nadal get extra time off after beating Verdasco in over 5 hours? Did Roddick have extra time off after beating El Aynaoui 21-19 in the 5th set?

    They will have almost a week to recover and again if they cant recover in that time then they should not be playing in the David cup.

    Why bother having this fairly tough selection policy and then give up after a couple of players get tired.

    It is most probably that Eaton and Goodhall will be the two selected but again surely this match between then sill show Llyoyd more than an extra couple of days watching them bat a ball accross to each other on a practice court.

    Let them get on with it and may the best man win.

  • Comment number 7.

    So, we have a must-pick as a player who is barely in the top 400 and that only due to ranking points from Winbledon and who has barely won a match since even playing against players in 3rd tier tournaments. Is this really the great new hope for British tennis?

    The reality is that unless he does well again at Wimbledon, Chris Eaton is unlikely to be in even the top 600 come the summer. Maybe he is that rare bird: someone with genuine big match temperment, but his presence in the GB team is hardly likely to make the Ukrainians quake in their shoes and we now have the threat from Andy Murray that his injury makes his own participation in the Davis Cup tie far from certain.

  • Comment number 8.

    Whatever his consistency problems, Eaton has the weapons and plays his best on big occasions. What is Davis Cup but a big occasion?

  • Comment number 9.

    You'd think a tie break in the 5th would have sufficed! This isn't actually the DC, and it can only have been detrimental to continue so long!

  • Comment number 10.

    @ 7

    you mention the Ukrainians response; their number one, Stakhovsky, has expressed his delight that Boggo and Bloomfield aren't in contention as he thinks they are the best guys for GB.

    Of course Boggo has a poor DC record, but he has beaten Stakhovsky both times they have played.

  • Comment number 11.

    I have to disagree with this article. What I'm getting from it is that Eaton has been better served by his 5-setter against Ward than if he had gone out and beaten him in straight sets. Where is the logic in that! The boy has done very little apart from his one win at wimbledon and a couple of wins in this round robin tournament. However, if John Lloyd has stated that the round robin is here to pick a winner simply on the results then fair enough, the manner of victories should carry less weight.

  • Comment number 12.

    What about David baxendine? He looks like if he picks up points he could be a major threat to Englands top players?

  • Comment number 13.

    "The match started at 10.40 in the morning and finished at 6.20 in the evening.."

    And it's not worthy of a mention on "Sportsday", where viewers get the UEFA Champions League "Staple Diet" Report instead (footballers running round in circles and flannel from reporters watching them!

    Incidentally, Jonathan, I downloaded a pdf file yesterday (Delray Beach doubles draw) that stated that Ross Hutchins had pulled out with a back problem before his first round match. Any more news?

  • Comment number 14.

    This appears to be the same bandwagon that rolled after Eaton's matches at Wimbledon.

    The bottom line is if he was good enough he would have done better by age 21 than he has. Eaton is currently at 390 in the world, has never been higher than 371.

    Despite Boggo's DC record, there is absolutely no doubt who the better player is.

    Anyone who thinks otherwise doesn't understand how tennis works and what rankings mean.

    Look at this really objectively. All players start from the same position, transition from juniors to full tour. Murray is the same age as Eaton and has risen to No4 in the World. That's what being able to win more than one match does for you.

    Well done Eaton for trying to break the record for the longest match ever, but it means squat when he squares off against the World No75 in the reality of DC. His only advantage is it's a home tie. If it were in Kiev, he'd be Eaton alive!

  • Comment number 15.

    The purpose of the Round Robin format is to produce an ultimate winner at the end of the series of games. Yes, great effort by Eaton but lets see what happens in the third match and then a decision can be made ie Ward might have a blinder and Eaton a stinker. To reach a conclusion before the matches are finished defeats the object.
    For those calling for Boggo - do me a favour, when the situation is tight or stressful he has failed time and time again. I don't care what his results are out of the media glare and when the pressure is not so great. How many opportunities do you give a player who crumbles time and time again in stressful situations. Has he ever won a Davis Cup match and how many losing matches has he played in that competition? He has had many chances, its time to move on from him.

  • Comment number 16.

    To Beethhoven's left ear: If he was "Eaton alive" in Kiev, would that make him Chicken Kiev?. And does anyone think Rusedski got a raw deal? Not me, but...

  • Comment number 17.

    Eaton may have beaten Ward in an epic match, but given that Ward's ranking is only 288 and Eaton had that much trouble beating him, does this bode particularly well for his playing other players?

    After Eaton's performance at Wimbledon last year, I thought he might be one to watch, but he hasn't managed to back it up since.

  • Comment number 18.

    I see your point and agree to a certain extent, but disagree with the argument as a whole. The performance, however spectacular it was, can only be seen as one match. While it may be enough in a Davis cup match, you're still expected to be able to deliver top performances for possibly 2 matches. This round robin tournament will show which plays can maintain that consistency, regardless of match length.

    It not only impacts on the Davis Cup, its good practice for these players in competition. They're probably only used to 3-set matches, so to get 5-set back-to-back experience is vital. Congratulations to Eaton, it was a terrific effort, and I hope for his sake he can do the same in the next match. But at the end of the day, if he can't deliver that consistency, then its up to the Coach to find a way to ease the disappointment and help him move on.

  • Comment number 19.

    Joshua Goodall is the only realistic pick as #2 to Andy Murray (or, potentially more frightening, as our #1). He has made solid progress and his ranking has finally crept into the top 200. In contrast, Chris Eaton has slipped back nearly 20 places. A lot of people wanted to pick him in September, but based on what? He'd had one big win at Wimbledon, pumped-up in front of his home crowd and, by September, had won just 4 more matches, I believe, all against very lowly ranked opposition. If he were to get the #2 slot ahead of Goodall, what message would that send to a player ranked 300 places above him, who has slogged around hauling up his own world ranking?

  • Comment number 20.

    Jonathan I could not DISAGREE with you more.

    I congratulate Chris Eaton for his effort in the recent match but I think you are missing the point.

    Both players neutralised each other which is more likely to suggest they don't have the "shots in the locker" to win the match against the other player and ended up grinding out a long match.

    I would be looking to the other results to see who has been clearly winning, taking the game by the scruff of the neck and beating the other player.

  • Comment number 21.

    i think tim henman should come back into the team! nostalgia rules ok!!

  • Comment number 22.

    if a match starts at 1040am and finshes at 620pm is that not 7 hours 40 mins

    - i'm confused..........
    didn't see the match - did they take an hour for lunch?

  • Comment number 23.

    If Murray is out then surely GB's dream team is a no-brainer: Lloyd, Henman and Rudeski? While the Ukrainians are rolling about laughing our boys can slip a few blistering winners down the line. Sorted.

  • Comment number 24.

    @ 22/ Colwall

    It finished at 5.20pm not 6.20pm, so 6hrs 40mins.

    no lunch breaks. Chris Eaton did have the trainer on twice though, and i'm sure there would have been the odd loo break in there too.

  • Comment number 25.

    If Murray is fit and wins his 2 matches,we should at least make sure we win the doubles where we have more chances.
    WHO is best to play with Hutchins?

  • Comment number 26.



    Josh Goodall would be a good bet to play in the doubles. He has played with Ross before, as a pairing they even reached the finals of an ATP level event in the past.

  • Comment number 27.

    I can't understand why you're so exasperated that Chris Eaton didn't play against Austria. If doing nothing all season and getting one win at Wimbledon is the criterion for Davis Cup selection we'd be as well packing up and supporting Serbia. If he'd won with a triple bagel fair enough, but he scraped through in 6 hours. The bloke'll knackered come next week.

    Depending on the viral fortitude of a certain A Murray, this could be walkover...

  • Comment number 28.

    If I were John Lloyd, I would call off the Eaton v Goodall play-off, because with Murray being ill so soon before the tie, it's highly probable that they'll both be needed for singles against Ukraine, so why tire them out even further?

  • Comment number 29.

    Announced on the LTA site John Lloyd has cancelled the final matches and will annouce his picks. Strange... but i suppose if he had made up his mind and one of his picks had got injured he would have been roasted.

  • Comment number 30.

    If Goodall is best for Hutchins in the doubles,then surely he can't play the singles as well.
    So the No 4 selection (Eaton ?) would play the singles?

    PS Why was Bloomers not considered,especially after his good run in Marseille,and close match against 37 ranked
    Bolelli?

  • Comment number 31.

    the whole concept of play-offs are ridiculous. i was there yesterday. it had to be seen to be believed. ballboys, umpires, best of five set matches. talk about over-indulgence. it's embarrassing that john lloyd can't pick a team without play-offs. he's doing this to cover his arse. if we lose next weekend (and if murray's virus is still around there's a very good chance of defeat) he can say, 'not my fault, i had to pick the guys that came through play-offs.' i shudder to think the amount of money he'll be pocketing as davis cup captain and he can't put his neck on the line and pick a team. pathetic. earn your dough lloyd and stand up and be counted.

  • Comment number 32.

    The logic of the argument presented here makes no sense. As jerryirl points out, it's perverse to say Eaton has put himself in a better position through a 5-set victory than a straight-sets win.

    Moreover, far too much is being made of Eaton's first-round victory at Wimbledon last year. He beat Boris Pashanski in that match. Prior to that match, Pashanski - who has only ever won one match in a slam - had lost in the first round of six successive Slams. Since that match, Pashanski has attempted to qualify for three more Slams, on each occasion losing in his first match in the qualifying stages.

    Sure, Eaton can be proud of having got to the second round of Wimbledon, particularly having chalked up some good qualifying victories to get there - but the idea that his Wimbledon victory over Pashanski is a free pass to Davis Cup selection - especially when the tie won't even be played on grass! - makes no sense, especially given his form since.

    The idea that a failure to abandon Lloyd's mini-tournament before it's over will undermine the logic of holding that mini-tournament is a proposition so silly as to carry its own refutation.

  • Comment number 33.

    The tie is in Scotland. Many of the tickets will have been bought to watch Murray and Murray. With Jamie not selected and Andy struggling with illness this tie has the potential to end up a farce in terms of interest and atmosphere. I want to support GB, but if I want to watch tennis, such as Goodall vs Bubka, I would turn up at a local Futures tournament for free. I would no doubt find myself standing with my big foam finger and inflatable clappers alongside the tournament referee and the guy who is only there watching after realising on turning up at the sports centre he had forgotten his swimming trunks. Fleming needs to be selected. That is who we (the many people in Scotland who have paid £25 for tickets) want to see. And in the absence of a Murray he will be much needed for some doubles action.

  • Comment number 34.

    Eaton has to play. He'll be a man on a mission with a point to prove against Stakhovsky, after losing to him 1-2 in 3 tie-break sets to him at an ATP qualifier in Metz last September. Stakhovsky may not relish a rematch.
    If Andy Murray drops out:-
    Goodall should play.
    Also, either Jamie Murray should be drafted in for doubles with Hutchins.
    Or Colin Fleming - in view of his incredible consistancy in winning doubles events in the last 4 months (7 wins).
    - Like Eaton he is an inspirational player with a consistant heavy serve. Unlike Jamie Murray, he'd also prove useful as singles cover in case of injury to Eaton or Goodall.

    Rankings are helpful - but it's all about form, self belief and good "match-ups" against opponents. That's why Bogdanovic and Bloomfield weren't even considered thid time.

  • Comment number 35.

    Why hasn't Jamie Murray been selected for this tie?

  • Comment number 36.

    I reckon Scotland's No1 will give this one a miss.

    It's bad enough playing under the 'Butcher's apron' banner, without the embarrassment of being associated with the no-hopers that make up the rest of the team!

  • Comment number 37.

    I watched the BBC News Channel before lunch, as I normally do, knowing that the selection (Goodall and Eaton) had been revealed around 11.20am.

    No mention in the sports bulletin at 11.45.

    I hung around for the 12.45 bulletin. Still no mention.

    What's the betting that the BBC News Channel will, in a week's time, take far more interest in the moaning tennis fans if Andy Murray drops out?

  • Comment number 38.

    In response to 35. timmy_went_missing

    After the Davis Cup tie against Austria, Ross Hutchins went on a run of ATP finals on the indoor circuit (off the top of my head, three finals and his first ATP title).

    What I wrote for post 37 equally applied to Hutchins last autumn; none of his finals were reported on the BBC News Channel.

    In view of a previous final with Josh Goodall mentioned above, Hutchins was always going to be favoured if Goodall was being given serious consideration for the singles.

  • Comment number 39.

    38 cont.

    In view of what I have just read online from Neil Harman of the Times, Hutchins would appear to be the right choice.

  • Comment number 40.

    'What's the betting that the BBC News Channel will, in a week's time, take far more interest in the moaning tennis fans if Andy Murray drops out?'

    Well as Murray is 100 times better than the rest of the GB squad it is quite understandable they would cover it if he pulled out. Without Murray the GB team have absolutely no chance. Eaton and Goodall being selected is no where near as important as Murray being able to play.

  • Comment number 41.

    #31

    'the whole concept of play-offs are ridiculous. i was there yesterday. it had to be seen to be believed. ballboys, umpires, best of five set matches. talk about over-indulgence'

    Shouldn't they try to replicate the intensity of Davis Cup as much as possible?

  • Comment number 42.

    Probably the play-offs should have been in Glasgow. There would have been a real atmosphere there, and more like the Davis Cup tie itself, with plenty of vociferous fans.
    The Braehead would probably not be available, but there a few other
    indoor centres where a stand could have been set up.
    Also the players could have been settled in well before the tie next week.

  • Comment number 43.

    I find it utterly bizarre that BBC tennis reporters like Jonathan Overend apparently have nothing whatsoever to say about the GB team's prospects in the David Cup tie with the Ukraine in light of the withdrawal of Andy Murray. Doesn't he have an opinion about that? How very strange!

  • Comment number 44.

    Just looking at the rankings can someone tell me why Richard Bloomfield was not in the play offs?

    Cheers

  • Comment number 45.

    Just looking at the rankings, can you tell me why Richard Bloomfield wasnt in the play offs for the Davis Cup?

    Cheers

  • Comment number 46.

    One minute the BBC is telling us Murray is "out" of the Davis Cup - the next minute they're telling us he's "doubtful" for the Davis Cup.

    Can the BBC please make up its mind and tell us which - because it can't be both! In journalism, the aim is to be clear. Can the BBC please try to be clear?

    Thank you!

 

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