GB's Davis Cup fortunes not likely to improve soon says Murray
Published Date: 22 September 2009
By Eleanor Crooks
ANDY Murray has warned British tennis fans not to expect any real improvement in the country's Davis Cup fortunes for the foreseeable future.
The world No 3 made it ten consecutive singles victories in the competition against Poland at the weekend but the hosts still ended up on the losing side and were relegated to Europe/Africa Zone Group II for only the second time ever.
Teenage rookie Dan Evans was the latest to be given a chance alongside Murray at Liverpool's Echo Arena but his debut ended in two straight-sets defeats, with Murray and Ross Hutchins' doubles loss on Saturday contributing to the 3-2 defeat.
Alex Bogdanovic, Jamie Baker, Josh Goodall and Chris Eaton have all been given opportunities to prove themselves in the Davis Cup in recent times without any meaningful success, while they have also failed to improve their rankings significantly.
The malaise in the men's game in Britain is in stark contrast to the women, where Anne Keothavong recently climbed into the world's top 50 while teenagers Laura Robson and Heather Watson have both won junior titles at grand slams.
Murray said: "The boys' side needs to get a lot better. Tennis is a big sport in the UK, with the competitions we have and the money tennis makes, but the level we're at is not particularly good.
"There's a lot of things that need to improve but it's going to take a lot longer than six months. It's until we start getting groups of juniors coming through and pushing up the rankings.
"You have to keep waiting for that batch to come through and it's not going to be in a year's time.
"We didn't have any boys playing in the US Open juniors so it's going to take three, four, five, six years before we have a batch coming through and hopefully the people who are in charge now will be able to produce that."
Davis Cup captain John Lloyd, though, believes there is hope and singled out 19-year-old Evans as someone who could blaze a trail for the younger generation.
"I believe Dan is capable of being a top 100 player, no question about it," he said. "He's going to have to work extremely hard, and I hope this is a week he'll have seen the sort of work you have to do.
"I think we've got other players that have underachieved and we've got some other ones in that next group that I think can make top 100 as well.
"And the 14/15 years olds look promising, too. A lot of the coaches think we've got a good batch there."
A lack of hunger and fight is a criticism frequently levelled at British players as an explanation for their lack of success despite significant investment, and Lloyd admitted there may be some truth in that.
He continued: "Do we need more hunger and steel out there? Yes we do. And maybe going down, we're going to be more ruthless with who we cut out of things.
"We can get tougher, no doubt about it. I think if we do it the right way and dump some guys who should not, and will not be involved in teams if I'm around, I think we can get a good spirit going."
Murray insisted he would still make himself available for the Group II matches, but the feeling from the Scot and Lloyd was it may be time for other players to step up to the plate.
And Evans, for one, is happy to take on the mantle and try to help Britain fight their way back up the ladder.
He added: "Everybody wants to have Andy around but I doubt he's going to come to Nigeria with us if we go there.
"I look back at the week and it's been a good experience.
"I've enjoyed all my time with everybody and the whole squad."