Felgate remains upbeat

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The Independent Online

Losing Greg Rusedski would not be a disaster for the British game, according to Britain's tennis supremo David Felgate.

With the Association of Tennis Professionals expected to announce this week - perhaps even today - whether the British No 2 will be banned from competition after testing positive for nandrolone last July, Felgate said the "can do" culture he has created in his first year as the Lawn Tennis Association's performance director means even a maximum two-year ban would not leave British tennis in tatters.

"I really hope it doesn't come to this," Felgate told British tennis writers yesterday, "but if the worst happens and we lose Greg, we will be able to handle it. You only have to go down to Queen's Club to see the environment in which our next level of players are working. The courts are buzzing."

Everyone connected with British tennis will have an ear tuned into any announcement from the ATP, the Florida-based men's tennis authority, but Felgate and his new Davis Cup captain, Jeremy Bates, more than most. Britain have a second-division Davis Cup tie in Luxembourg over the Easter weekend, and Bates needs to name his squad by the end of this month.

Felgate refused to say who would replace Rusedski in the event of a ban, but said it would be down to a committee of four including himself, Bates and the manager of men's tennis, Mark Petchey. The most likely replacement is Arvind Parmar, the British No 3 from Hertfordshire who recently won a Challenger tournament in Vietnam which took him back into the top 150 in the world.

"If you look at how hard Arvind is working, it's very impressive, but we want to get away from isolating players. They're all working together, motivating themselves by checking on each other's results. Picking the Davis Cup team should be a headache for all the right reasons, and we're moving towards that," Felgate said.

Rusedski faces a maximum ban of two years, and with his 31st birthday coming in September, many feel it would be the end of his meaningful playing career.

* The American Vince Spadea won his first ATP Tour title at the 223rd attempt when he beat Germany's Nicolas Kiefer, 7-5, 6-7, 6-3, in the Franklin Templeton Classic on Sunday night in Miami. Spadea, who beat the No 1 seed, Andy Roddick, in the semi-finals, became the third first-time winner this season.

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