Britain out of wilderness but Murray needs help


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The Independent Online

The two years of ignominy are over. Britain's spell among the dead men of Europe/Africa Zone Group Two – effectively the Davis Cup's third division – was brought to an end here at the Braehead Arena yesterday as Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins gave the home team a match-winning 3-0 lead against Hungary. The Britons beat Attila Balazs and Kornel Bardoczky 6-3 6-4 6-4.

Leon Smith's team have picked themselves up well following last year's shocking defeat in Lithuania. While anything other than emphaticvictories against Turkey, Tunisia, Luxembourg and Hungary would have been a surprise, Smith's men have gone about their business in a thoroughly professional manner.

Although Andy Murray's presence for the last two ties has been a major factor, the truth is that Britain should still have earned promotion even without their world No 4. Next year will be different. In Europe/ Africa Zone Group One most teams have at least one if not two top 100 players to call upon.

Nevertheless, with Murray in the team Britain should fancy their chances of beating anybody in 2012. Despite the lack of depth in singles – the next highest-ranked Britons are James Ward (No 149) and Jamie Baker (No 261) – the presence of seven doubles players in the top 100 is encouraging.

Although Murray's schedule next year is complicated by the Olympics, Smith is confident his best player will be available. Britain's first tie, against opponents to be decided by a draw on Wednesday, will be in February. "He has to look after his career, but the signs are positive that he wants to play next year," Smith said. "In terms of winning matches against those stronger nations we need Andy because we don't have anyone else in the top 100 in singles. He makes a pivotal difference.

"But that said, you still have to respect his schedule because he's going deep in every single Slam. His schedule's tough. He's spoken about that this week. We'll just speak next year and see how his schedule fits in. But he's really enjoyed it. He's been a great part of it and he loves it."

Fleming and Hutchins, world No 43 and No 51 respectively in doubles, were too good for Bardoczky and Balazs, ranked No 839 and No 1,010. The Britons won with a single break of serve in each set. Bardoczky made some woeful volley errors, while Balazs lacked the weapons to offer any serious threat.

The match was tight for the first six games. From 3-3, however, the Britons put their foot on the accelerator, winning 20 of the next 21 points.

Balazs was the first player to drop serve, Hutchins converting break point with a forehand return winner down the line in the eighth game. Bardoczky was the only player to drop serve in the second set, in the opening game, while Balazs suffered the same fate in the fifth game of the third, after which the Britons delightedthe crowd with a Bryans twins-style celebratory chest bump.

In the World Group semi-finals, Spain lead France 2-1 in Cordoba, while Serbia kept their hopes alive by winning the doubles in Belgrade against Argentina, who lead 2-1.