Jeremy Bates was chosen yesterday to lead Great Britain's Davis Cup team out of the Euro-African Zone and back into the World Group. In common with Roger Taylor, his predecessor as captain, Bates will have the rod but lack the staff.
The 29-year-old Tim Henman is the nation's only player ranked in the world top 100, at No 32. The 30-year-old Greg Rusedski, at 113, is 50 places above Arvind Parmar, Britain's only other player in the world top 200. And the team are desperate for a doubles partnership to ease the burden on the ageing Henman and Rusedski.
Bates, the Lawn Tennis Association's head of performance and the Davis Cup coach to Taylor's team, which was relegated from the World Group after losing in Morocco last month, knows the problems.
Taylor, 62, was the captain for seven ties - three wins, four defeats - since July 2000, and was praised for fostering team spirit and preparing the players well. He had to adjust to losing Rusedski because of injury after the first day of a home defeat to Ecuador. Rusedski was absent, injured, when Britain beat Thailand last year, and injuries prevented both Henman and Rusedski from playing in the tie which was lost in Australia last January.
Bates, 41, will combine the Davis Cup captaincy with the job of nurturing young players as the right-hand man to David Felgate, the LTA's director of performance. Bates' contract as captain will run until the end of the 2004 campaign, starting with April's second-round tie against Finland or Luxembourg.
As a Davis Cup player, Bates won 27 of 52 matches in 20 ties. He is Britain's seventh captain since 1976, following Paul Hutchins, Warren Jacques, Tony Pickard, Bill Knight, David Lloyd, and Taylor.
"It's a great honour to be asked to take charge," Bates said. "I have experience of working with the Davis Cup team as coach and so I know the players well. I fully understand their needs for the Davis Cup and the unique nature of the competition. I will be looking to get the very best out of the players and am confident that we can progress."
Taylor said: "I have given my all as captain over the last three years and am proud of the progress we made. We have had some memorable highs in this time, winning against all odds in Ecuador in 2001 to return to the World Group and defeating Thailand last year with an injury-hit squad."
The last time Britain were relegated from the World Group, in 1992, it took six years before they resurfaced. Neither Bates nor Mark Petchey, who is now the LTA's manager of men's tennis, won a match in losing to India in the qualifying round in New Delhi in 1992.
Two years later, Bates and Petchey played singles in a home defeat by Romania on grass that relegated Britain to Group Two of the Euro-African Zone, effectively the third division.
Henman made his debut in the doubles against Romania in 1994, partnering Bates in a five-set win. The Montreal-born Rusedski arrived from Canada in time to join forces with Henman in a 5-0 win against Monaco in a Group Two relegation play-off at Eastbourne. Britain defeated India at Nottingham in 1998 to return to the World Group.
* Henman eased past the Czech player Tomas Zib 6-3, 6-4 in the second round of the Swiss Inoors championship in Basle last night. He will now face Argentinian David Nalbandian in the quarter-finals.Reuse content