Smith confident the future is bright for British tennis
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