Emptiness. That is the general feeling that any British tennis fan feels on the Monday after Wimbledon ends. We spend those first few days desperately trying to fill the void that the end of the British grass court season leaves. Shelves are mended, houses are cleaned and dogs get walked more often. This year, however, will be different. This year, the British grass court season has one more punch to pack and it’s a big one: Great Britain v France in the Davis Cup quarter-finals.
It has been 79 years since Great Britain lifted the trophy. In that time Britain has had 17 Prime Ministers and its population has grown by almost 20 million. It has been 34 years since Great Britain even reached a semi-final. Surely the time is right for the years of hurt to end?
GB Davis Cup Captain Leon Smith has transformed the British team into just that- a team. Andy Murray may be the star player but you won’t find him taking all the credit. Indeed, Britain would not have reached the quarter-finals without the hard work of other members. Who can forget James Ward’s heroics against John Isner in Glasgow or the consistent performances from the doubles players?
Smith will be heartened by the fact that he has more players vying for selection. Kyle Edmund’s admirable performance at Roland Garros will not have gone unnoticed but abdominal and shoulder strains seem to currently be holding him back. Liam Broady has also been knocking on the door and his superb comeback from two sets down to win against Marinko Matosevic in the first round of Wimbledon demonstrates his strength of character and ability on grass. James Ward, however, is the tried and tested player; the one that we can depend on to perform on the big stage. Ward seems to relish the Davis Cup atmosphere and it is a shame that he has not been able to convert his heroics to his own singles career. His performance at Wimbledon, however, will hopefully boost his confidence and breaking into the top 100 will open up opportunities in tournaments that have hitherto been unavailable to him.
Doubles often gets overlooked in the media but a Davis Cup team is nothing without its doubles players. They can be the making or breaking of a team. Britain have been blessed with an array of players to choose from over the past few years. Jonny Marray, Dominic Inglot, Jamie Murray, Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins, amongst others, have all played their part. One does wonder, however, whether the long term effects of the LTA’s cuts to doubles funding will mean so many doubles specialists will be available for selection in future. Selection for the quarter-final was far from certain. Jamie Murray’s excellent results with John Peers were enough to secure his spot. Given Dom Inglot has only recently returned from injury Smith may have been tempted to select Colin Fleming but he will have been fully aware of the fact that Jamie Murray and Inglot came close to defeating the Bryan brothers in the previous round.
As for the French, well we may have a champion in Andy Murray but they have ten players in the top 100. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon, Richard Gasquet and that ultimate showman, Gail Monfils, were all options available to captain Arnaud Clement. Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut were recently crowned champions of Queen’s in the doubles but Clement decided to go for three possible singles players in Tsonga, Simon and Gasket together with Mahut.
Belief is key and this Great Britain team is one which believes they can win. Bring on the French!