It probably isn’t what Alex Bogdanovic wants to hear after his predictable capitulation to Alexander Peya, but did the result really matter for British tennis?
On the surface, GB’s defeat by Austria was calamitous – a return to the dreary reality of ties against Macedonia and Belarus, an immediate future scrapping in tennis’s basement while the glamour boys live it up in the sunshine elsewhere.
Beyond the reactionary doom and gloom, however, does it actually make much difference?
The good things that have happened to British tennis this year – Andy Murray’s US Open performance and rise to world no.4, Laura Robson’s triumph in the Wimbledon girls’ tournament, the £30m sponsorship deal between the LTA and Aegon – are untarnished by Davis Cup defeat.
Murray himself was genuinely pumped during his singles victory over Jurgen Melzer, but set in the context of the year he’s just had, the team’s defeat will have meant comparatively little.
Part of his pleasure in seeing off Melzer seemed to spring from personal animosity with his opponent, and the additional strain on his knees caused by having to switch from hard court to grass for this tie was clearly far from welcome.
Tellingly, in the final three sets of Bogdanovic’s decider, Murray was nowhere to be seen.
His seat court-side remained empty at the key time in the entire tie, and while there may have been a rock-solid reason we don’t know about, the symbolism was unavoidable.
For the LTA, unlike the majority of national tennis federations, the Davis Cup is not a key money-spinner. Thanks to the Wimbledon bonanza, British tennis has never had a problem with cash – it’s knowing what to do with it that’s the issue.
What about national pride? The 9,000 or so thunderstick-bashing fans who half-filled Number One Court clearly cared, but it’s debatable how representative those partisans are of the general sporting public.
To the average British sports fan, there was only one international team competition that counted this weekend, and it involved Boo and Poulter, not Bogdanovic and Peya.
Success has to begin somewhere, no matter how small and weak the initial shoots of recovery might be. By that margin the last three days represented a missed opportunity.
At the same time, this was an undisputedly fair result.
Davis Cup teams cannot be built around a single player, no matter how much he’s improved over the last six months.
Say what you like about captain John Lloyd’s doubles selection on Saturday (and the relative freshness of Murray and Melzer in Sunday’s singles was vindication enough for some) but you cannot hide three weak links in a team of four.
Jamie Murray had a stinker. Ross Hutchins is not a world group player, and Bogdanovic – well, Bogdanovic is no-one’s idea of a man for a crisis.
And if you can’t beat Austria, do you really deserve to be in the elite group of tennis nations?
Even had Bogdanovic and Britain pulled off a heroic win, the path ahead was hardly paved with gold. Where do you go with only one player ranked in the world’s top 100?
Perhaps the biggest shame is the lost opportunity to blood young players in top-level competition against the best players in the world. Both Murray brothers benefited from early exposure in the Davis Cup, but a tyro is likely to learn less about himself and what it takes when he’s toiling in the Euro-Africa zone.
For Bogdanovic, his defeat on Sunday was a perfect summary of his career.
In the first set he hit some fine shots, dominated Peya and looked in control. Midway through the second, the error count gradually began to climb, letting Peya back into the match.
As always with Bogdanovic, once the slump had started, there was no turning back. In the fourth set, he was broken three times.
Then again, what else did anyone really expect?