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British Davis Cup fortunes restored as Leon Smith eyes World Group

Leon Smith, Great Britain’s Davis Cup captain, admitted yesterday that his team’s two-year exile in the depths of Europe/Africa Zone Group Two had been a reality check for British tennis.


Great Britain finally climbed back into the more respectable surroundings of Group I over the weekend, beating Hungary 5-0 to claim their fourth successive victory at this level. But the quality of their opponents will only improve now that they have left the likes of Luxembourg, Tunisia and Turkey behind.

“It told us where we were at,” said Smith of Great Britain’s relegation two years ago. “The stark reality is that it wasn’t good enough. Even now, we’re still not where we want to be in men’s tennis, but it’s the start of something. At least we’ve got some great ties to look forward to, and the players should now be desperate to be part of that team.”

The word “desperate” is perhaps a bit strong in the case of Andy Murray, the key figure in British tennis, who has plenty of other chances to go up against the best players in the world. But Murray seems happy, for the moment at least, to commit to the team environment. “If he’s fit and healthy, he’ll play,” said Smith.

The draw for next year’s Group One fixtures will be made on Wednesday, and is likely to include matches in February, April and September — although if the organisers decide that Great Britain should be seeded, one of those could be a bye.

Could Smith’s team turn embarrassment into triumph and win back-to-back promotions that would carry them all the way back up to the World Group — which is peopled by the elite nations of tennis?

“You’ve got to aim for it,” he says. “If Andy plays and if our doubles players are fit and playing well, we’ve got a chance against anyone. But you have to keep things in perspective.

“Although it’s been an encouraging few months on the men’s side, take Andy out of the equation and there’s still a huge gulf – just a lack of male players. It’s good that James Ward has had a strong summer, but he has a lot of hard work to do to progress.

“Then you have the 20 or 21 year-olds, people like Dan Evans, Dan Cox, followed by a group of juniors who everyone’s been talking about after the US Open. But it’s a long journey: you’re not going to suddenly see guys in the top 100, top 150. It’s just not how it works.”

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