Lloyds given Davis Cup jobs

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The Independent Online
David Lloyd, one of the most vociferous critics of British tennis, is to become the Davis Cup captain, and his brother, John, will be the coach.

The Lloyds take over after the tie in Slovakia in April. Bill Knight, the current captain, has decided to retire in September. His wider role as the men's national training manager will be taken by his assistant, David Felgate.

"I nearly fell off my chair," John Lloyd said yesterday, "because I didn't think David had any chance at all of it. In a lot of ways it's a bold step, because we've been two of of the arch critics, and it shows that there is a real keenness to improve things."

David Lloyd echoed the sentiments. "It's the greatest honour I've ever had, and I didn't think it would come, because of what I've said. For them to ask me, and for me to say, `Right, let's go for it', reflects our common desire to make things better in British tennis."

The Lawn Tennis Association decided that the need for drastic action outweighed Lloyd's jibes. Asked on one occasion if he fancied an executive role, he said he would not be offered one because his policy was to get rid of everybody and start again.

John Robbins, the LTA president said: "Having accepted the fact that David Lloyd has been a great critic of everything which has been done, here was an opportunity for him to prove that, despite his criticism, he really wanted to be part of the team in bringing British tennis up a few levels."

The governing body will hope Lloyd brings to the captaincy the flair which made him a multi- millionaire from a chain of tennis centres. "I have achieved a little success in the game, but a lot in business," he said. "It's a challenge, but I love a challenge.''

He will travel with Knight to Slovakia, but his first match as captain will be at home to either Egypt or Monaco in July. Should Britain lose on the clay in Bratislava, Lloyd would start with a play-off to avoid demotion to the Fourth Division.

Lloyd will be the fourth captain in five years. Knight, 59, was persuaded to take charge of the team after Tony Pickard's acrimonious departure following a row with Richard Lewis, the director of national training, after the defeat in Portugal last April.

Britain subsequently lost a relegation play-off against Romania on grass in Manchester in July, and slumped into Group II of the Euro/African Zone, effectively the Third Division.

The first matter raised when Lloyd was offered a three-year contract concerned the political situation within the LTA's training department, which has become part of a new professional tennis division.

"I told them I wouldn't take the job unless the move was backed by Bill Knight and Richard Lewis," David said. "I have great respect for Bill. I think he's a tremendous man."

John added: "The bottom line was establishing who we had to report to. The reason I didn't do it three years ago was I didn't like the structure." He has agreed to make himself available for six weeks each year.

As in Pickard's case, Lloyd's responsibility will begin and end with team selection and motivation. "I have no control - and I don't want to have control - of what comes through from the ranks," he said. "I just want to motivate them to do better. I'm British, and I want British tennis to succeed."

Lloyd, 47, and his 40-year-old brother, were together for nine Davis Cup ties, including the World Group final against the United States in Palm Springs in 1978. David failed to win a set in four singles rubbers, but won nine of 15 doubles, two of them in away ties. John was the last Briton to reach a Grand Slam singles final, losing to Vitas Gerulaitis in five sets at the 1977 Australian Open.

New faces, but familiar problems. There was hardly a large pool of players to select from even before Jeremy Bates announced his retirement from the Davis Cup.

"I can't make them world champions," Lloyd said. "All John and I can do is to try to get the best out of the specific players I pick. I hope I can get 20 per cent more from the players than they've probably got or shown before. Then they can win matches people don't expect us to win. Not only that, but carry it on into their tournament performances."

Did he not consider that he was on a hiding to nothing? "Yes, that's right. But I'm used to that."

Boris Becker has decided to play for Germany in the Davis Cup this year after a break of more than two years. Germany play Croatia in next month's first round.

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