Smith con­fi­dent the fu­ture is bright for British ten­nis

Evening Times - - SPORT - Hay­ley Milne

LEON SMITH hopes Great Bri­tain can re­turn to Madrid next year with an even stronger Davis Cup team af­ter nar­rowly miss­ing out on a place in the fi­nal.

De­spite leav­ing Andy Mur­ray on the bench for all but one match be­cause of a lack of fit­ness, Bri­tain came ag­o­nis­ingly close to em­u­lat­ing their his­toric suc­cess in 2015 at the new-look fi­nals week.

They were edged out in dra­matic fash­ion in a de­cid­ing dou­bles by Spain in the semi-fi­nals, with Jamie Mur­ray and Neal Skup­ski un­able to take four set points in the sec­ond set against an in­spired Rafael Nadal and his part­ner Feli­ciano Lopez.

But Bri­tain’s run, which brought vic­to­ries over Hol­land, Kaza­khstan and Ger­many, showed the im­proved strength in depth the coun­try now has – al­beit only at the very top level – with three top-100 play­ers in sin­gles in Dan Evans, Kyle Ed­mund and Cameron Nor­rie and a raft of dou­bles op­tions.

Cap­tain Smith will cel­e­brate a decade at the helm in 2020 and he be­lieves next sea­son can be a very pos­i­tive one for Bri­tain’s lead­ing men.

The Scot said: “Ev­ery­one’s got their dif­fer­ent jour­ney to go on, but I think we should be ex­cited by what we have in British ten­nis.

“Andy will go on his jour­ney of com­ing back and keep build­ing mo­men­tum, which is go­ing to be ex­cit­ing to see.

“Kyle, he’ll be dis­ap­pointed with how his year’s gone, ob­vi­ously, and then you look at the player he’s been in Paris and the player he’s been here.

“He should be ex­tremely mo­ti­vated, what’s pos­si­ble for him to move back up the rank­ings. Be­cause there’s so much in his game and he looks like he’s in a good place, got a new coach­ing team. So I ex­pect to see some really good progress from him.

“Evo [Evans] had a great year com­ing back and get­ting his rank­ing around the 40 mark, wasn’t that far away from be­ing seeded at slams, which is a great ef­fort. That’s what he’ll be look­ing to do – to sta­bilise and try to move in hope­fully to­wards nearer the 30 mark.

“We’ve got so many dif­fer­ent things go­ing. I think it’s great. And hope­fully ev­ery­one can just keep on that path and we come back here next year with – we have a really strong team – but hope­fully even stronger.”

Ed­mund was the star of the Davis Cup from a British point of view. Hav­ing only been in­cluded in the team late on af­ter end­ing an eight­match los­ing run, he won all three of his sin­gles matches in straight sets and looked back to the form that made him a top-20 player last sea­son.

He will link up with ex­pe­ri­enced Ar­gen­tinian coach Franco Davin for pre-sea­son, and Evans ex­pects to have British com­pany in the top 50 very soon.

“What he’s done in the last two months has been ex­tra­or­di­nary to get him­self back,” said the British num­ber one.

“I’ve seen it first hand. He’s worked hard. And to turn it around in Paris and keep go­ing where peo­ple could have just stopped the year, and then he’s come here, and what he’s done, he’s looked ba­si­cally back to a top-20 player again.

“It’s great to be on his side. But hope­fully I don’t see much of him next year. I think he’s go­ing to do pretty good.”

The British team have spo­ken pos­i­tively about the re­vamped Davis Cup, now styled the World Cup of Ten­nis, al­though they were not helped by a sched­ule that left them play­ing four days in a row.

En­cour­ag­ing more fans to travel will also be a pri­or­ity for next year but Bri­tain cer­tainly fin­ished on a

■ high in terms of at­mos­phere, with the Caja Mag­ica at fever pitch for the dou­bles in par­tic­u­lar.

Play­ing the dou­bles as the de­cid­ing rub­ber has been one of the big suc­cesses of the new for­mat, and Jamie Mur­ray said: “It was a great at­mos­phere. It was ex­cit­ing.

“I think it show­cased how ex­cit­ing dou­bles is and how good a sport it is. I think ev­ery­one that would have been there in the sta­dium and peo­ple that watched at home would have en­joyed that match for ev­ery­thing that it had.

“I’m really dis­ap­pointed that we didn’t find a way to get one of the sets. That one will hurt for a lit­tle while. But it’s a match that I’m sure I’ll re­mem­ber when I fin­ish my ca­reer.”

British cap­tain Leon Smith, left, is op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture with prospects like Kyle Ed­mund, right

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