Lewis ousted following Davis Cup humiliation

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The Independent Online

Richard Lewis was ousted as director of British tennis Tuesday, two days after Britain was knocked out of the top flight of the Davis Cup by Ecuador.

Richard Lewis was ousted as director of British tennis Tuesday, two days after Britain was knocked out of the top flight of the Davis Cup by Ecuador.

The Lawn Tennis Association, the sport's governing body in Britain, released Lewis from his post of director of tennis. LTA chief executive John Crowther said the decision was taken by "mutual consent."

With the British media targeting Lewis as the scapegoat for Britain's humiliating defeat, Crowther said his departure was the only option.

"This continued pressure on the LTA would actually act against the interests of British tennis," Crowther said. "Richard Lewis also felt his continued presence would act against the interests of British tennis."

Crowther said that Frenchman Patrice Hagelauer, the LTA's performance director, would now report directly to him.

Hagelauer today urged the country to stop bashing the sport: "In this country there is a national sport which is criticism and it's probably one of the reasons you are not successful.

"We have to build the confidence of everybody: the players, the coaches and the LTA because we're running tennis in this country.

"We are lucky to have Tim Henman, but how can you build his confidence by saying he will never win Wimbledon. Criticism before you start is the real problem. It's a disease."

Britain was relegated from the elite 16-nation World Group after the defeat to Ecuador at Wimbledon's Court No. 1.

Giovanni Lapentti, a 17-year-old grass court novice with a world ranking of 959, came from two sets down to beat Arvind Parmar in five sets in the final match to give Ecuador a 3-2 win.

For a nation accusted to tennis failure, this was considered a new low.

The loss dropped Britain into the Euro/African zonal group, the Davis Cup's second-rate division, with prospective opponents including Ivory Coast, Slovenia and Belarus.

Most of the blame was directed at Lewis and the LTA, accused of wasting the £30m it receives each year in Wimbledon profits.

Britain, which hasn't produced a men's singles champion at Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936, has developed only one top class player in recent times: Tim Henman. Britain's other top player, Greg Rusedski, was born and raised in Canada.

Henman, who won both of his singles matches against Ecuador, led calls for a change at the top of the LTA. Henman said Hagelauer, who led France to two Davis Cup triumphs, should be given "carte blanche" to rectify the situation.

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