Broad shows way for Britain

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DAVID LLOYD, the inspirational Davis Cup team captain, hosted a promotion-party at Wimbledon last night as British tennis finally took a confident step towards credibility.

After doubles pair Neil Broad and Mark Petchey secured an unbeatable 3-0 lead against Egypt on Wimbledon's soon-to-be- demolished No 1 Court, Lloyd's team are finally assured of a place in Group One of the Euro-Africa Zone competition next year - and an escape from mixing it with the lower orders.

It was never going to be any other way against the latest small-fry opposition to stand in the way of Lloyd's three-year plan to take Great Britain back to the top. His major stars Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski did not have to approach anything like their best form to set up a 2-0 lead in the opening singles on Friday and now they face only exhibition matches against, respectively, 174-ranked Tamer El Sawy and 522-ranked Amr Ghoneim, to formally close down the tie today. It completes a four-in-a-row winning sequence since Lloyd took charge of the Davis Cup team after a calamitous home defeat by Romania three years ago.

Although the previously vanquished opposition were only Monaco, Slovenia and Ghana, Lloyd said: "All we can do is beat whoever is put in front of us - and I think we have done that convincingly." He knows only too well that there are much tougher tasks ahead before Britain can contemplate a shot at qualifying for the elite World Group of tennis nations like United States, Sweden and Germany in 12 months time, but Lloyd is confident his players are ready.

He said: "We were so far down on confidence three years ago that it become a long road back to the top, but with Tim and Greg doing so well in singles over the last couple of years, combined with Neil and Mark forming an excellent doubles team, the confidence is there again now. It has got to the stage where we do not fear anybody now in the Davis Cup - especially with a home draw."

That is the kind of luck Lloyd will hope for when the first Group One fixture takes place in April. He said: "More than 5,000 fans have turned out at Wimbledon each day to cheer the boys on and if we are fortunate enough to be drawn at home again next time I'll be looking for a big-capacity indoor arena to stage the match on hard court. It would be wonderful to play a Davis Cup tie on grass at Wimbledon again but in April that is going to be impossible, of course. Even so, I know we will now take on anybody with a good chance of winning."

Ukraine, with the brilliant Andrei Medvedev, or Zimbabwe, with brothers Byron and Wayne Black, are among the likely opponents. In Henman and Rusedski, Britain now have two high-class singles acts who are capable of beating the best - and may even team up in the doubles.

South African-born Broad, who won the Olympic silver medal alongside Henman in Atlanta, and Petchey showed yesterday, though, that they are still a formidable combination. It may not have looked that way in the first set which the Egyptians took in just 36 minutes after breaking Petchey's opening serve. But, stung into action by Lloyd's motivational powers and fired up by some blatant gamesmanship from his Egyptian counterpart Kalid Baligh, the Britons struck back with venom and style to win 3-6 6-4 6- 3 6-4.