Great Britain took a tentative step back up the Davis Cup ladder as James Ward’s five-set win over Malek Jaziri at Bolton Arena secured victory over Tunisia.
After preserving their Europe/Africa Zone Group II status by defeating Turkey last summer, Leon Smith’s team now move on to a second-round clash with Luxembourg in July where another victory would give them a chance to earn promotion.
There were certainly positives for Smith to take from the weekend, not least the battling spirit shown by Ward in his 3-6 6-3 3-6 6-3 8-6 win over Tunisian number one Jaziri.
But it is a sign of how far Britain have fallen that Tunisia were the worst they have ever played.
Tunisia did not even travel with a physio and, world number 325 Jaziri aside, boasted one ranking point between them.
Smith took heart from the result but accepted it also showed how long the road back to respectability will be.
He said: “You’ve got to be pleased with a win. It’s a step in the right direction but we should be winning matches at this level. You can see now when you look at someone like Jaziri, it just shows the depth in the men’s game. The standard’s going up all the time so it’s just good to get through the tie.”
Andy Murray has already indicated he is likely to play against Luxembourg, who defeated Ireland yesterday, and Ward will surely be the number two singles player after improving his Davis Cup record to five wins and one defeat.
After losing only two games against hapless Sami Ghorbel on Friday, this was always going to be a much tougher test, and so it proved as Jaziri again played above his ranking to push Ward all the way in a match that lasted three hours and 45 minutes.