British coaches lead national success
British tennis has taken more than its fair share of bashing over the years - some of it unjustified, much of it fully warranted - so how nice to be able to say, shout (or actually should it be whisper?) that things are definitely on the up. For once, results prove it.
Three boys semi-finalists in the US Open juniors, six players in the main draw of the Australian Open without needing a single wild card, junior Grand Slam doubles champions, four wins out of four for the GB Fed Cup team at the recent play-off in Israel and now, over a tense weekend in Glasgow, a thrilling win for the Davis Cup team, without the assistance of Andy Murray.
Admittedly it was Group One of the Euro Africa Zone, with 'only' the Slovak Republic in opposition, but Britain were outranked in all four of the singles rubbers. Slovakia had two singles players inside the top 150; Britain had none. This was a significant win on the banks of the Clyde.
James Ward didn't have one of his better weekends, although he will play worse and win matches this year. Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins proved again they are an international-standard doubles team and Dan Evans - often the whipping boy - was the undoubted hero with two wins from two.
Britain's Davis Cup team are part of a wave of national success. Photo: Getty
The 21-year-old from Solihull has always had talent and his lowly ranking of 273 is a mystery when you watch him play. Off the court, the stories haven't always been positive. The impression I have formed - just an impression - is of someone uncertain whether professional tennis is really for him.
Hopefully his magnificent deciding-set, deciding-rubber victory (first time that's happened for Britain for decades) answered the question, although, talking to Lawn Tennis Association coaches, that attitude change has been in place for a reasonable time.
Having lost his central funding - one late-night tale too many - he's getting help once more and believes in the people trying to steer his talent towards results. On this evidence, and with a professional attitude back on the tour, he has a decent future.
Murray has been saying for years that other British male players need to step up and learn how to win matches at this level. This weekend was proof that his occasional absence is no bad thing because Davis Cup is not a competition for one-man teams.
We've had to take some pastings to get to this position - and that hasn't always reflected well on Murray when he's decided to do other things - but has it helped James Ward and Dan Evans grow stronger as individuals and players? Absolutely.
From being embarrassed in Vilnius two year ago in the shameful defeat to Lithuania which forced out captain John Lloyd, Britain has moved forward impressively under the new leadership of Leon Smith, winning five ties in succession.
The inexperienced Smith, whose appointment was ridiculed in some quarters, is not only Davis Cup captain but also head of men's and women's tennis at the LTA. What he lacks in his CV or his ego - seemingly essential requirements for an LTA coaching job in the past - he more than makes up for in passion, positivity and a desire to learn and improve.
Finally British tennis, and specifically the chief executive Roger Draper, has reached the conclusion that supporting passionate British coaches - people who will still be working for the good of British tennis in 20-30 years time - is the way forward.
While this column has jumped on perceived LTA failings many times in the past (so it is only fair we give credit where it's due) I have never questioned the commitment of the British coaches who do their best in often trying circumstances.
What I have criticised is the money-no-object policy of the past five years with ludicrous salaries, company credit cards, bizzo flights, monster bonuses...and then the inevitable pay-off and hush money.
We tried to buy short term success - "quick wins" to quote one of the more distasteful Draperisms - and only now are we realising, because all the expensive foreign purchases have left, that investing in British coaches is the way forward.
I thought paying for Brad Gilbert to coach Murray at the start of his career wasn't a bad idea (although failing to demand the money back was strange) but the rest of them? Peter Lundgren, Paul Annacone, Steven Martens, Anne Quinn, all hired on six figure salaries, all now headed off into the sunset.
Of course they helped, to a point, but that money - that not-so-small fortune - has now gone. And gone out of British tennis. Now inexperienced replacements are getting better results out of many of the same players. Should we really be surprised? This sequence of positive results has not happened just by luck.
Draper, who must know he was fortunate to survive the nadir of Vilnius and the subsequent poor showing at Wimbledon, has hopefully accepted he got it wrong. And if he has, he should be praised too.
But the biggest praise needs to go to the coaches and to the players. They are the ones knuckling down in the real world. Some in Spain, some in America, some in Scotland, some in the north of England. All over the place, not just in the spotless yummy-mummy land of Roehampton.
Let the players play and the coaches coach. And, eureka, things are starting to happen.