GREAT Britain’s new Davis Cup captain Leon Smith insists his good relations with the country’s top players will help him reverse the team’s humiliating slide.
Britain must beat Turkey in July to avoid relegation to Europe/Africa Zone Group III – the lowest tier of the competition. And Smith, who used to be Andy Murray’s coach, is confident he has the credentials to halt a disastrous sequence of results.
“This is a huge honour and an irresistible challenge,” said the 34-year-old Scot. “I know the players, and I know that together we can get Britain back to winning ways in the Davis Cup.”
Murray opted to step back from Davis Cup before the defeat against Lithuania last month, ostensibly to give other British players experience.
The suspicion remains that shouldering the nation’s Davis Cup hopes is not exactly a priority for Murray, who is hunting his maiden Grand Slam title. But having coached Murray from the age of 11 to 17, Smith remains close to the world No4 and says he is happy for him to pick and choose when he wants to represent his country.
“The situation doesn’t change. It’s still Andy’s decision on a tie-by-tie basis,” Smith said. “If he decides not to play, I’ll respect it because I do understand that where Andy is in his career, he’s got a wider vision for his tennis, which means trying to win a Grand Slam for the first time.”
Smith was confirmed yesterday as the successor to John Lloyd, who resigned after the Lithuania defeat – Great Britain’s fifth straight loss.
The Lawn Tennis Association preferred him to more high-profile candidates, such as Greg Rusedski, because of his links to current players.
Smith has less than three months to persuade Murray to return, with the Turkey tie taking place at Eastbourne on 9 July.
Relegation would leave Britain grouped with the likes of Andorra, San Marino and Montenegro.
FACTFILE | LEON SMITH
l Smith worked at several Scottish clubs before linking up with Andy Murray when the now-British No1 was just 11.
l Under his guidance Murray rose to the top of the junior game, winning the US Open boys’ title in 2004.
l Smith worked as Scotland’s academy coach and then national training coach before joining the LTA in 2007.
l Stints as national under-16 and under-18 men’s coach were followed by promotion to the role of LTA head of player development for men’s tennis last year.