Lloyd's future in doubt as British Davis Cup team is relegated
JOHN Lloyd’s future as Great Britain Davis Cup captain looks in major doubt following a humiliating home defeat to Poland in Liverpool.
UNKNOWN FUTURE: British Davis Cup captain John Lloyd congratulates Andy Murray - the only positive in a humbling defeat against Poland
Andy Murray, bravely playing on despite a wrist injury, forced the encounter into a decisive singles match with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Polish number one Jerzy Janowicz.
But teenage rookie Dan Evans was simply no rival for Michal Przysiezny and was outclassed from start to finish, despite briefly showing signs of resistance during a closer third set.
The 19-year old lost 6-2, 6-1, 7-5 as Great Britain were relegated to the third tier of tennis nations – joining the likes of Ireland, Monaco and Moldova.
"Other than Andy Murray, we need to accept that we are a group two team," said Lloyd.
"We've got to fight our way back into group one. The boys need to earn their stripes until we mature a bit.
"Lack of depth has been our problem for a while. We have some good young players but the Davis Cup is a tough beast.
"They get thrown in and can lose easily, and sometimes you can lose confidence. It'll take a bit of time."
However, it would be unfair to blame the teenager – whose confidence will take time to recover from two demoralising defeats in three days, which left him fighting back the tears.
Evans is ranked outside the world’s top 300 and isn’t even placed in the top four in Great Britain.
British number two and three, James Ward and Josh Goodhall, were absent through illness while number four, the much maligned Alex Bogdanovic, has lost his last six live Davis Cup singles matches and won’t be picked as long as Lloyd stays captain.
BRIGHT SPOT: Andy Murray roars to victory - despite a nagging wrist injury during the Davis Cup tie with Poland
The defeat will send shockwaves through the well-funded Lawn Tennis Association - who receive over £25 million annually from the profits of Wimbledon and have just signed a big-money £30 million five-year sponsorship with commercial partner Aegon.
Lloyd’s supporters will say he should not be blamed for the fact there is a tragic lack of depth below world number three Murray.
But he has now lost his last three home ties in the Davis Cup, indeed since succeeding the equally unsuccessful Jeremy Bates three years ago, he has only claimed wins over Ukraine, Holland and Croatia.
Murray insisted he remains committed to the Davis Cup – but added a telling get clause - 'as long as I'm fit'.
And it remains to be seen whether he’d want to risk his chance of success in Grand Slam tournaments by adding visits to such minnow tennis nations to his already congested 2010 travel schedule.
“Andy has done a magnificent job for us – if he can continue to play then great, if he can’t then it’s a chance for others," added Lloyd.
“I’m old school, in my view you play for country even if they are in group eight.”
Great Britain’s lack of depth is nothing new – but it’s worth contrasting with Spain.
They didn’t play either of their top players, Rafeal Nadal or Fernando Verdasco, but still beat Israel 4-1 to book a Davis Cup final place against the Czech Republic later this year.
LTA chief executive Roger Draper, not normally shy of cameras and microphones, avoided interviews in Liverpool this weekend – possibly aware he’d be asked to give the dreaded vote of confidence to the under-pressure Lloyd.
If he decides to relieve the captain of his job, the options are extremely limited.
Greg Rusedski, who works with the LTA to develop young talent, may not be keen to accept such a difficult and thankless assignment, especially as it means he’d need to sacrifice his lucrative media commitments.
Tim Henman has expressed no interest in becoming involved but Nigel Sears, who has enjoyed some success with women’s tennis at the LTA, has been mentioned as a potential replacement.