Britain’s new Davis Cup Captain Leon Smith knows defeat in his first match in charge against Turkey at Eastbourne a week after Wimbledon will result in a sharp backlash against his controversial appointment.
But Mark Petchey, who succeeded Smith as coach to world no.4 Andy Murray and once oversaw the Scotsman in his role of Manager of Men’s Training at the Lawn Tennis Association, believes the appointment in indicative of Britain’s slide in the world game.
“When Roger Draper came into the LTA it was all about a world-class leadership team, world-class people and this is it; four years down the track we are putting someone in charge of the men's game and the Davis Cup who has none of these qualities,” said Petchey.
“Smith has been involved in men's development for two or three years now with the LTA and we all know where men's tennis is right now. The average of our men's top 10 was 194 back in 2006 - now it's outside 300. If you look at where that has gone, then obviously it has gone backwards."
"It's like we're going to try and keep more players in it, but John Lloyd - who they themselves state was not to blame - got a nice six-figure pay-off, so it's cost British tennis an immense amount of money. And then they're bringing someone in who doesn't have any experience of the Davis Cup whatsoever?"
Both Smith and Andy Murray, who the new captain coached until the age of 16, are insistent their relationship was not the deciding factor in the appointment to succeed John Lloyd. But common belief in Britain has it that Smith is the man best placed to persuade Murray to face the Turks after he turned his back on the team for the embarrassing defeat against Lithuania in February.
Smith, who has never played the game at a professional level, was viewed by Draper and LTA Players Director Steve Martens, as a better appointment than Greg Rusedski who can boast 13 years Davis Cup service for Britain. Rusedski also coaches James Ward who a potential singles player pick for the tie against Turkey.
“Are we saying the strategy before was wrong and now we're on the right one, or are we actually saying we don't have a clue and are sticking somebody in the job who we think might persuade Andy Murray to play Davis Cup?,” continued Petchey.
"Andy will make his own decision and I know Andy, he was happy to go with the majority view of what the players wanted in terms of a Davis Cup captain. And the majority of those players wanted Greg Rusedski."
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