Great Britain goes into this weeks Davis Cup tie against Lithuania in a bout of optimism. Such a feeling is strange when it is noted that the team is without the aid of their number one player Andy Murray, their sole representation in the men's top 100.
His inconsistent appearances in Davis Cup matches have previously been responded to with obvious negativism, but for this tie his dropout is accepted.
This tie actually does seem winnable though without the Scots efforts. Lithuania’s most competitive singles player is only ranked fifty places higher than James Ward and Dan Evans, who will be attempting to win in their two singles matches. Both Brits are comfortably higher than Lithuania’s number two, Laurynas Grigelis and therefore should relish and fulfil the opportunity of winning matches and the tie overall.
In the doubles match the British pairing of Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski, are following on from the motivation of winning ATP titles in the previous twelve months.
So it all looks rather promising for a GB victory.
All optimism aside however the British team still require a high level player to accompany Andy Murray when the ties become more difficult and the matches miles more competitive.
As the women’s Federation Cup hopes have seen a massive burst of energy with Baltacha and Keothovong producing some beautiful tennis and affording themselves more chances of victory, the men’s side in comparison seems stuck in a rut.
The decision by captain John Lloyd to dismiss British number two in Alex Bogdanovic, has always seemed surprising as the player is consistent in his top two hundred ranking. The feeling with Alex though is that he chokes when he is most required to perform, a thought that is done no favours by his continuous first round exits at Wimbledon.
Whichever decision is made for who plays in the ties, does not however detract from the repeated urgency to find a capable substitute for Andy Murray’s absence.
With Murray still not accompanied by a follow up talent, we have to ask why is it still going wrong for men’s tennis in Britain? This is especially when you consider that everything is heading in the right direction on the women’s side of the game.
The revelations of Heather Watson and Laura Robson in the girls Junior game have inspired the British media into a frenzy.
Another solid display at a Grand Slam by Elena Baltacha also increased the attention. When she reached the third round of the Australian Open we were given an elevated hope of a successful Women’s Wimbledon campaign later this year.
So whilst the current Davis Cup tie looks winnable, with the British competitors hoping for a wondrous aftermath if they were to win, the LTA will and should still be under scrutiny.
We desperately need a player to lift the spirits of a GB team that cannot rely upon Andy Murray to bring home the bacon. There are some promising talents in the likes of Jamie Baker, James Ward and Dan Evans, but with little to show for their careers so far they are unlikely to produce the levels of tennis that have been portrayed by Andy Murray, Tim Henman or Greg Rusedski.
It is likely to be a while before another player forces themselves to the forefront as no Junior Brits on the mens side are punching high in the rankings. Where Elena Baltacha and Keothovong look to be replaced in a few years by Robson and Watson, no-one is there to take over from Murray when the results begin to falter.
This is a depressing thought indeed. The LTA therefore must take note.
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