Tennis: Lloyd threatens to resign as Davis Cup captain after dispute over contract

Britain's campaign for a return to the Davis Cup World Group gained momentum with yesterday's draw, a second-round tie at home against Denmark or Ukraine next April. But, as John Roberts reports, there is a hint of unrest in the camp.

While Greg Rusedski and Tim Henman continued the quest to raise their world rankings in Vienna yesterday, David Lloyd, at the Davis Cup draw in London, threatened to walk out as Britain's captain.

Expressing disappointment with the progress of negotiations for a new contract with the Lawn Tennis Association when his current agreement expires next March, Lloyd said: "We are in discussion, but at present they are only offering me an extension to the end of 1998. I've called for a three- year business plan to win the Davis Cup and I would like the LTA to give me a vote of confidence for that period. I want to lead the team, but if the players don't want me I would walk.''

Lloyd made his point after Britain had drawn an opportunity to climb out of the Euro-African Group and become one of the elite 16 in the World Group. Seeded and given a bye in the first round, Britain will play Denmark or Ukraine at home in the second round next April. Victory would put Britain in a promotion play-off for the World Group.

Underlining his belief that Rusedski and Henman, backed by "some up and coming youngsters", could win the Davis Cup for Britain in three years, Lloyd said: "It would be bigger than any individual winning a tournament, with the exception of Wimbledon. It will be like lifting the Ryder Cup.''

John Crowther, the LTA's executive director, said: "We are right behind David and we are happy to confirm that we are trying to keep him. The simple fact of the matter is that David's contract expires in March next year. The LTA wishes to extend his contract. We remain committed to David remaining as captain of the Davis Cup team and we are in the process of negotiating with him. We are not prepared to conduct negotiations with David through the media.''

Newcastle, London and Telford are being considered as possible venues for the tie in April. Britain, it will be remembered, defeated Ukraine on a clay court in Kiev last July. "It's a good draw," Lloyd said, "but with the players we've got we shouldn't be frightened of anybody." He added, however, that he was "pleased we've avoided Croatia with Goran Ivanisevic.''

The United States and Russia, who contested the 1995 final in Moscow, are drawn to meet in the first round of the World Group in April. "We hope to site the match near a large metropolitan area where there is a large Russian population to keep guests happy," Harry Marmion, president of the United States Tennis Association, said. How times have changed.