Draper tells Lloyd to restore Britain's place in elite group

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The Independent Online

Britain had just escaped relegation to the third tier of the Davis Cup, but Roger Draper was in no mood to settle for consolidation in Group One of the Europe-Africa Zone. The Lawn Tennis Association's ambitious chief executive has already told John Lloyd, who made a winning start as British captain here on Sunday against Ukraine, that his aim for next year must be to win a place back in the elite World Group.

"The earliest opportunity to get back there is next September and that's John's target," Draper said. "He knows that and everybody is committed to getting back up there."

Draper's insistence on the very best for British tennis could be seen in the brains trust that sat on the sidelines here, with Lloyd supported by Peter Lundgren and Brad Gilbert, two of the world's leading coaches.

Gilbert is already signed up to the Draper revolution, primarily as Andy Murray's coach but also with a broader role across the British game. Draper worked out a schedule here with Gilbert, who will spend 15 of his 40 working weeks per year in London working with other British players and coaches. Lundgren, Roger Federer's former coach, is contracted until the end of the year to work with Marat Safin, but the LTA is hoping to recruit him on a permanent basis.

While support for the leading Britons has never been better, the question now is how quickly the next generation can develop into players of truly international class. In Murray Lloyd can call upon one of the world's most exciting young talents, but there have been plenty of examples over the years of outstanding individuals who have eventually seen the Davis Cup as a hindrance to their careers.

With Greg Rusedski seemingly on the point of hanging up his rackets it is no wonder that one of the first goals for Lloyd in the coming weeks will be to talk Tim Henman out of Davis Cup retirement. If neither Henman nor Rusedski are available, the second singles spot alongside Murray is open. The most likely contenders are two 20-year-olds in Jamie Baker, who lost in the final dead rubber here but impressed Lloyd with his attitude and professionalism, and Josh Goodall, who proved his determination by fighting his way through qualifying to play at both Wimbledon and the US Open this year.

Finding a good doubles pairing is also a priority. Murray is an excellent doubles player, but it would be asking a lot of him to play three matches in every Davis Cup tie. One solution would be to partner Murray with his brother, Jamie, who has enjoyed some good success in doubles this year and has moved from 260 to 110 in the doubles rankings.

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