Headache begins for Lloyd after Henman's last party

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The Independent Online

The hangovers after a Saturday night of celebrations should have cleared by now, but for John Lloyd the headaches are only just beginning. Having led Britain back into the Davis Cup's elite by beating Croatia at Wimbledon, the captain now has nearly five months to ponder his team for the first round of the World Group in February.

Lloyd will learn of his opponents on Thursday, but with the likes of the United States, Russia and Spain in the hat, they will surely provide a stiffer test than a Croatian team deprived of their three best players.

Of greater concern will be the vacuum left by this year's retirements of Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski, the former having emulated the latter by bowing out with the tie-winning shot in a Davis Cup doubles in partnership with Jamie Murray. Henman, who had also won his singles rubber on Friday, was the key player in Saturday's 4-6, 6-4, 7-6, 7-5 victory over Marin Cilic and Lovro Zovko, never dropping his serve and steadying the nerves of his partner. The good news is that Andy Murray, having talked recently about the difficulties of accommodating tricky Davis Cup dates into his calendar, would be prepared to change his schedule next February.

This year Murray went straight from January's Australian Open to play in America, successfully defending his San Jose title, but he said yesterday that he would play in Europe in February 2008 if it fitted in better with national duty.

Murray was talking after beating Roko Karanusic 6-4, 7-6 in the first of the final day's dead rubbers. The 20-year-old, having missed so much of the summer through injury, was happy to get some more match practice, though it probably helped that, as a teetotaller, he was not one of the British party with a sore head after celebrations that included a meal at Nobu, the Japanese restaurant where Boris Becker once played mixed doubles in a broom cupboard.

"We had a few drinks before, a few drinks there, and a few drinks afterwards back at the hotel," Henman said. "We got through a few bottles of champagne in the locker room and we kept on going, so when I woke up this morning I was a little on the thirsty side."

The major challenge for Lloyd is replacing Henman as Britain's second singles player. Jamie Baker, beaten 6-4, 6-4 by Marin Cilic in the other dead rubber, is a valued and hard-working member of the team, but whether the 21-year-old world No 226 will ever be able to take on the world's best is another matter.

Instead, the captain will hope that Alex Bogdanovic, a 23-year-old of undoubted talent, will find the mental strength that has sometimes deserted him. Henman had the world No 130 in mind when he talked of the qualities some young British players had lacked in the past. "He's a guy who has masses of technical ability," Henman said. "He's improving as an athlete, he's getting fitter and stronger, and now I think he's beginning to understand what is required mentally.

"Then you look at Jamie Baker. He's a classic example of someone who has all the motivation, desire and hunger. He works so hard. He's just got to keep developing his game because he doesn't have the natural ability of Bogdanovic. If we had more kids with his attitude, then we'd be in a better situation."

Henman, who says he would be delighted to assist British tennis in the future, added: "If and when I get involved, I want to see more of the players taking responsibility because there are too many of these guys that have false expectations of the LTA. There are very few countries in the world, if any, that are paying for the players' or the coaches' expenses. We're very fortunate, but the players can't take it for granted.

"They have to realise that this is about them. It's about them getting out there and earning their crust. They should be taking the responsibility to employ and pay those people. It's that type of mentality, that desire and hunger that in some players has definitely been lacking."

Henman said it had been "bizarre" to wake up and realise that he would not be structuring his day around matches or practice sessions. He said he had no desire to pick up a racket again, although if he feels like a hit at home he could always put up the net from Saturday's deciding doubles, which the Wimbledon ground staff gave him.

He plans to improve his golf handicap (currently three) and will be a regular at Sunningdale, where he is a member. As for today, the first day of the rest of his life, Henman said: "I'll be at home. I'm sure I'll be on the school run. It will be good just to be at home and have no plans and to be able to mess around in my garden or go and play golf."

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