Davis Cup: Britain confident Italy can be beaten in quarter-final meeting

Andy Murray helped inspire Britain to victory over the US at the weekend

Britain may have achieved an historic Davis Cup triumph by beating the USA but the new head of the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) believes Andy Murray can take the team to even greater heights.

Mike Downey, who has only been in the job a month after moving from Tennis Canada, is confident Britain can beat Italy in the quarter-finals.

It is the first time since 1986 that Britain have reached the last eight, and the first time they have beaten the USA since 1935.

Downey told Press Association Sport: "We have a good chance in Italy especially with Andy playing - and playing so well - as it helps raise the game of the other players.

"Andy played so well on Friday and that gave emphasis to Ward's game, and he stepped up.

"What we want now is a long run in the World group, the top 16 countries, where the stakes are higher, and where the great tennis nations continue to be."

After years in the wilderness of the Euro-African group II, from a nadir in 2010 when Britain lost to Lithuania, Britain are now at vertigo-inducing heights.

Downey believes the success can be harnessed to the campaign to boost participation after some stagnant years which has seen the LTA lose a considerable chunk of funding.

Downey, 56, added: "From my experience in Canada I think success at Davis Cup and (women's) Fed Cup is very important to the health of the sport in the country.

"It becomes 'water cooler talk' because it's about motivation, pride and the country doing well, and tennis is getting far more coverage today than it normally would and it will again when we play Italy.

"It is also really very special in that this is a team event, and you are representing your country, and it makes it even more special to beat the Americans to advance to the first quarter-final for more than 25 years away, and dealing with a pretty unruly crowd."

Last month, Sport England reduced tennis' money by £114,000 for the youth age group after a fall in participation - and that despite Murray's Wimbledon triumph - but the funding body said it had been impressed by the LTA's plans for the future.

For Downey, the Davis Cup success can be part of the platform to restore the sport at grass-roots level. The new chief executive organised a party for 100 staff to watch live coverage of the first match on Friday night and said the excitement at the victory had been notable.

He added: "We had all the flags out and it was a great night, and great for team-building too.

"The emotive nature of the Davis Cup indirectly helps things like participation, and I think that was one of the things we maybe didn't have enough focus on.

"Now we do and I think Sport England has been good for us."

PA

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