08 March 2011
Overcoming Tunisia to record Great Britain’s second Davis Cup win in a row should be something to be pleased about, but instead it merely goes to prove the state that British tennis currently finds itself in.
Concurrent wins over Turkey and now Tunisia, possibly two of the weakest nations in world tennis and two wins from two for new captain Leon Smith seem to suggest hope for the future of the men’s game, but in the cold light of day, team GB know they have a lot more to do if they are to play regularly against the best the world has to offer.
The most glaring of problems is Andy Murray’s reluctance to play for his country in the tournament. He is likely to return for the promotion clash against Luxembourg later in the year, but his reluctance to play in the competition is a real worry for Team GB. The only man Britain has inside the top 200, he should be leading the way by setting an example, but is focusing on his own search for a Grand Slam.
Which is fair enough, but should he be allowed to come back and pick and choose his matches to ensure he can play in the 2012 Olympic competition? Simply put Team GB need him a lot more than he needs them.
Smith also flirted with selecting Alex Bogdanovic for the tie in the absence of Murray, but saw sense and left him on the sidelines. The Serbian-born Brit has failed to win a singles rubber since 2003 and was dropped altogether in 2009. This in itself is enough evidence to suggest the British team are far from anywhere near good enough to compete for the Davis Cup. Luxembourg , who will be slight tennis betting underdogs given the return of Murray, will be a much sterner test and a truer indication of where this team is at.
Tunisia made the tie a lot closer than it should have been as Jamie Baker was defeated by Malek Jaziri<, the Tunisian number 1, before James Ward showed some heart to take the final match of the tie to make it 3-1 for Great Britain with Andy’s younger brother Jamie helping his country win the doubles match earlier in the day. Having been relegated more times than West Brom have been from the Premier League it is difficult to get excited about the future of the game when the threat of a collapse similar to the one which helped them lose against Lithuania is always seemingly round the corner.
Trouble off the court permeates the game as the Lawn Tennis Association, which has failed to cover itself in glory since Andy Murray was forced to learn his trade in Spain, lurches from one crisis to another, and seems rudderless and helpless to change to fate of British tennis. It will be a long time before British fans will feel comfortable placing tennis bets on their own country in the Davis Cup.
An overhaul, from the ground up is needed, starting with the men at the very top of the game, before British tennis supporters can even start to think about becoming excited again.