Fleming and Hutchins lift the gloom in Glasgow

 

It has not been the best of weeks for the Lawn Tennis Association, but at least Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins provided a ray of Easter sunshine yesterday. The pair's 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-4 Davis Cup victory over Ruben Bemelmans and David Goffin in Glasgow ensured that Britain's Europe/Africa Zone Group One tie would not be decided until today's final session, although Belgium remain clear favourites as they go into the last day with a 2-1 lead.

Recovering from a cautious start, Fleming and Hutchins eventually had too much class for their opponents, who were playing as a pair for the first time. Nevertheless, Josh Goodall and Dan Evans will both have to produce the best performances of their lives in this afternoon's reverse singles against Olivier Rochus and Steve Darcis respectively if Britain are to steal the win that would take them through to a September play-off for a place in the World Group.

Leon Smith's team were always going to struggle in the absence of their leading singles players, Andy Murray and James Ward, though the Belgians are also lacking two of their most successful men of recent years, Xavier Malisse in singles and Dick Norman in doubles. Even without their experience, however, Belgium were able to select four men who are all ranked higher in singles than their opponents.

While there would be no shame in losing this particular tie, the LTA should be concerned about the declining numbers of tennis players in Britain. According to figures released by Sport England, the average number of adults playing the game has dropped by almost 25 per cent in less than five years, from 487,500 to 375,800. As a result, Sport England last week cut their funding for tennis by £530,000.

Although some criticisms of the LTA for failing to produce more top-class players have been unfair, the record on playing numbers does not reflect well on the regime. Champions are the product of their own endeavour and ambition rather than national training programmes – nobody has ever suggested, for example, that Serbia's success has been down to the efforts of their impoverished tennis federation – but a bigger pool of players can only increase a nation's chances of unearthing world-class competitors.

Roger Draper, the LTA's chief executive, described Sport England's participation figures as "disappointing". Considering the resources at the LTA's disposal, many would use much stronger language.

However, British fortunes at elite level are picking up. Judy Murray's Fed Cup team face Sweden later this month in a play-off for a place in World Group Two, while Smith has led the men away from the brink of the Davis Cup's lowest division to within touching distance of the elite World Group.

Fleming, ranked No 25 in the world at doubles, and Hutchins (No 30) made a nervous start as the Belgians broke serve in the third game. From 30-30 Fleming served a double fault and then saw Goffin crack a backhand winner down the middle of the court. It was the only break the Belgians needed to take the first set.

Hutchins was broken when serving for the second set, but two breaks of Goffin's serve enabled the Britons to level the match. Goffin was broken again in the third and fourth sets as Fleming and Hutchins closed out victory.

Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Sport
Jose Mourinho restrains his assistant manager Rui Faria, Fabio Borini celebrates his winning penalty and Connor Wickham equalises for Sunderland
sportChelsea 1 Sunderland 2: Deafeat is extra bitter as former Chelsea player Fabio Borini scores late penalty to seal victory
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
VIDEO
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit