Britain complete rare clean sweep
Monday 12 July 2010
Mission had been accomplished in the afternoon, when Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski secured a match-winning lead over Turkey with victory in the doubles, but there were no late-night celebrations for Britain's Davis Cup team in Eastbourne on Saturday.
Leon Smith, making his captaincy debut, wanted his men to finish the tie in style and they duly did so yesterday as Jamie Baker and James Ward sealed a 5-0 triumph – Britain's first whitewash victory for nine years – by winning their reverse singles. Baker beat Tuna Altuna 6-3, 6-2, while James Ward needed just 49 minutes to trounce Ergun Zorlu 6-1, 6-3.
While nobody was getting carried away with victory in a relegation play-off, Smith could not have made a better start as captain. His meticulous professionalism has impressed everybody and the players responded in the best possible manner, dropping only one set over the five rubbers to end the national team's record run of five successive defeats.
Some eyebrows were raised with the appointment of a man with little experience on the senior international circuit, but the advantage of one person combining the job of Davis Cup captain with that of head of British men's tennis has been apparent at Devonshire Park. Smith has contact with nearly all of Britain's leading players on a week-to-week basis through his 'day job', ensuring continuity at Davis Cup ties.
That could be especially important given it will be eight months before Britain play again. Their next match will be in Europe Africa Zone Group Two next March, against opponents to be decided by a draw in September.
Andy Murray, like many of the world's leading players, will decide on a tie-to-tie basis whether to make himself available for national service. Smith said the whole British squad would be delighted if Murray plays, but there is no doubt that the likes of Baker and Ward have benefited from the opportunities presented by the world No 4's absence here. "They go away now with great confidence after winning in what was a pressure situation," Smith said. "They can build on that for the rest of the year."
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