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Lloyd fired up by Henman's Davis Cup return

Three months after his team stood on the brink of relegation to the Davis Cup's third division, John Lloyd was talking optimistically yesterday about Britain's chances of rejoining the competition's elite World Group.

Tim Henman's announcement that he is making himself available again for selection put the British captain in good heart as he headed for the Australian Open, which begins in Melbourne next Monday. Lloyd has been trying to persuade Henman to represent his country again ever since taking over as captain a month before last September's play-off against Ukraine, which Britain won to avoid dropping out of Group One of the Europe/Africa Zone.

Henman, who will not be playing in Melbourne because of a knee injury, withdrew from Davis Cup competition in 2004 to concentrate on his own game, but insisted last year that he had never ruled out a return. "I've always enjoyed representing my country and I'm happy to be in a situation whereby I hope I can do so again," Henman, 32, said on announcing his return on Sunday night.

"It's fabulous news," Lloyd said yesterday. "Tim called me a few hours before I left to get on the plane for Australia. I was a bit anxious about it because when he got his knee injury I thought it might make him have second thoughts."

Lloyd said Henman's return would improve the balance and flexibility of the squad. "It gives us more options in the singles and doubles," he said, pointing out that the potential presence of Henman, Andy Murray and Greg Rusedski would create a good environment for younger and less experienced players who might also join the squad.

The captain could even have a selection dilemma as he ponders his team to face the Netherlands in Birmingham in April. Murray, who moved up to a career-high No 15 in the world rankings yesterday, and Henman look certain to be the first-choice singles players.