The "situations vacant" notice board at the Lawn Tennis Association's Queen's Club headquarters is getting busier by the day. The latest position that needs to be filled is that of Davis Cup captain after Jeremy Bates resigned yesterday following the weekend defeat by Israel.
After a promising start early in 2004, Bates' last three matches ended in defeat. If losing away to a Roger Federer-inspired Switzerland last September was to be expected, the two defeats this year at the hands of Serbia and Montenegro in Glasgow and Israel in Eastbourne were bitter blows. They leave Britain having to win in Ukraine in September to avoid dropping into Europe-Africa Zone Group Two, effectively the Davis Cup's third division. Nevertheless the exit of Bates, who remains as the LTA's Head of Performance, is of a different nature to the high-profile departures that followed the appointment of Roger Draper as chief executive earlier this year. Whereas Draper quickly decided that the likes of David Felgate, the performance director, and Rebecca Miskin, the tennis operations director, did not fit in with his plans, he had not been looking to oust Bates. "I would like to thank Jeremy for his dedication as captain," Draper said last night. "I look forward to continuing to work closely with him in his broader coaching role at the LTA."
Bates, who said it had been "a privilege" to captain the team, has been on a hiding to nothing since succeeding Roger Taylor. Tim Henman retired from Davis Cup tennis before he took over and injuries to two key players contributed significantly to this year's defeats. Andy Murray was unable to play in the singles in Glasgow, while Greg Rusedski missed Eastbourne with a hip injury. Even James Auckland, who would almost certainly have played in the doubles against Israel, was unavailable as he was getting married.
Draper is keen to surround himself with what he describes as a "world-class" team, which is likely to lead to a shortlist of candidates to succeed Bates. While Draper is considering overseas candidates as he looks to fill some of the other posts, there are not exactly many Britons with the right credentials to take on the Davis Cup role.
The job has probably come too early for Henman or Rusedski, which could leave John Lloyd as the man in pole position. A senior BBC commentator, he is a high-profile and well-respected figure within the sport and was a fierce Davis Cup competitor. His brother, David, who was captain for five years from 1995, has been welcomed back into the fold by Draper as a developer of young talent.
"The Davis Cup is something I've loved and I'd be an idiot if I wasn't interested," John Lloyd told the BBC website yesterday. "But no one's mentioned it to me." Lloyd was highly critical of Alex Bogdanovic, who disappointed again in Eastbourne. "He seemed to accept defeat way too early," Lloyd said. "I would much rather have someone who might not have the talent, but is willing to run through a brick wall for you. We have to rebuild and put in some untried younger players alongside Andy Murray."
Bates' Davis Cup record
Luxembourg (Esch sur Alzette) won 4-1.
Austria (Portschach) lost 3-2.
Israel (Tel Aviv) won 3-2.
Switzerland (Geneva) lost 5-0.
Serbia and Montenegro (Glasgow) lost 3-2.
Israel (Eastbourne) lost 3-2.Reuse content