After Andy Murray, who's next for Great Britain?

By Piers NewberyBBC Sport
Murray is the king of Queen's

As Wimbledon approaches, Britain is preparing itself for two traditional summer storylines. Firstly, can he do it? Secondly, why can't any of the others?

British number one and world number four, Andy Murray, faces a huge challenge in overcoming Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and the rest if he is to end the nation's 75-year wait for a men's singles champion.

But the task for Leon Smith is, if anything, more daunting.

The 35-year-old Scot has been the LTA's head of men's tennis and Great Britain Davis Cup captain since April 2010, and he is about to go through the Wimbledon experience for the second time as the man ultimately responsible for many of the wins and losses the nation will debate next week.

Smith describes the job as "a huge privilege and a huge honour" and has already dipped his toe in this year's Wimbledon waters with the announcement of wildcards for James Ward, Dan Cox and Dan Evans.

"It's important to keep the focus on what's best for the players, and wildcards are great to have as a development tool," says Smith. "The three should be going into Wimbledon looking for a win, given a favourable draw."

Ward's impressive run to a first ATP semi-final at Queen's last week - after being given a wildcard - has taken him up to 176 in the world rankings, but the gap between the British number one and number two remains huge.

So what are the prospects of that situation changing in the future?


Smith: "James has got weapons. He's got a big serve, he's got a great backhand and he moves pretty well, so he can hurt players.

"The key for him is to do it on a more regular basis, and that's something we can help support him with. He's got a coaching team in place that he found himself, and we support him with Team Aegon funding that offsets some of the costs.

"But it comes down to him.

"When he's travelling to some far-off place he needs to find that motivation that he seems to find in Davis Cup, at Eastbourne or at Queen's.

"He's capable of doing it, but the age he's at now, 24, it's time for him to develop that competitive edge week in, week out. I'm confident he can do it."


Smith on Cox: "Dan is very, very strong despite being small for a tennis player, he is athletic and has very good technical ability.

"But the results weren't as consistent as we would have liked so we challenged him to really work on the mental side, and to be fair he really did a good job with that at Futures level.

"He won a number of events and his ranking climbed; the next stage for him is to find his feet at Challenger level where you're regularly playing guys between the rankings of 70 through to 250.

"That's a big step up. We want to keep him in those events now and that's why it's so good for him to play at Queen's and Wimbledon. It will be a great experience for him."

Smith on Evans: "He is in a very good place right now. Having spent time with him in the last six months, I see a player who's committed to a good physical programme at the performance centre in Nottingham.

"Game-wise, he's done very well at Futures level, but it's time to step up to Challengers.

"He's a very good mover, with very good defensive skills and hand skills, he's a great competitor and loves getting into the heat of battle - but how is he going to hurt people?

"At Challenger level it's more physical than at Futures, you're playing against bigger hitters, and it's important that Dan starts bringing some weapons into his game."


Smith: "We have five or six guys showing good signs at international junior level, and we've not really had that before.

"It's still not massive numbers - but greater competition increases the chances of one or two coming out of the pack.

"They need to make an impact at the junior Grand Slams.

"We had Oli Golding making semis at Wimbledon last year and George Morgan semis at the Australian Open this year, so the signs are pretty good. But it's a long journey.

"That still holds for the guys who are 20 or 21 years old. In the past you saw a lot of 18, 19-year-olds bursting onto the scene, it just doesn't happen now.

"There are some exceptionally good teenagers who are nowhere near the top 100.

"Some of our juniors are working within the National Tennis Centre but most are outside, and for us it's a question of supporting the player, their parents and coaches, maybe through funding and expert guidance.

"The physical aspect is important - are they doing really hard work, day in, day out, no matter where it is?

"We just try to help facilitate that. It's a two-way street. There will be sacrifices, tough decisions, tough talking, disagreements - that's normal in high-performance sport, with everyone really fighting for 100 spots that make a good living out of it.

"But once they're on the court the players have to go out and learn how to compete for themselves."


Smith: "It's great for them. If they're serious about getting to the top then throwing them into the lion's den is exactly what they need, be it the juniors or the men's championships.

"Why else would you choose to be a pro tennis player if not to compete at the highest level? I'm excited for them, it really is over to them to go out there and perform."