Leon Smith has chosen plenty of Great British quality for the 2021 Davis Cup Finals

Lucy Roberts
Leon Smith Great Britain Davis Cup captain
Leon Smith Great Britain Davis Cup captain

Captain Leon Smith is delighted with his Great British team as they prepare for their Davis Cup stint which gets underway on Saturday.

It will be the first time Smith’s team have battled in a Davis Cup campaign in two years, including a 12-month postponement of the tournament due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

After reaching the semi-finals at the inaugural finals week back in 2019 in Madrid, GB were guaranteed qualification to the 2020 finals which are being held this week now that a lot of coronavirus restrictions have been lifted.

However, Britain are taking on France in the Austrian city of Innsbruck on Saturday and given Austria have just gone back into lockdown due to a rise in infection rates in the country, the matches will be played behind closed doors.

But in a shake up to the format, three different cities are hosting the group stages: Innsbruck, Turin in Italy and the Spanish capital Madrid, so some matches will still be played in front of crowds, including the final.

Cameron Norrie, who was recently drafted in for injured Stefanos Tsitsipas at the ATP Finals, will be leading the British team.

“What Cam has been doing this year is absolutely exceptional,” Smith told the PA agency.

“Of course he wasn’t in our last squad and to go from that to being our number one player and closing in on a top-10 ranking, it’s really so impressive.

“Every single person respects what he’s doing.”

But the quality doesn’t end there.

Cameron Norrie made his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals last week
Cameron Norrie made his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals last week (Luca Bruno/AP)

Smith has chosen Joe Salisbury who also made a name for himself at the recent ATP finals by becoming the first Briton to reach the doubles final in the competition, British No2 Dan Evans and Neal Skupski who was picked over Jamie Murray.

“With Evo (Evans), he’s now been around that level for a while, sitting at 25, 26 in the world, and he can go higher – he’s capable of big wins, he’s got a huge amount of Davis Cup experience.

“Joe Salisbury has had an exceptional couple of years on tour, he’s one of the best athletes on tour.

“With Neal on the ad court, that’s why we went with him.”

Having an electric atmosphere in the crowd and with the behind the scenes staff has always worked in favour of the Great British team since Smith took the helm in 2010, but with there being a two year gap since their last campaign and ties at Innsbruck being played behind closed doors, this is undiscovered territory for GB.

The Scottish tennis coach and captain said: “Obviously we all used to love having two, three, four ties a year and coming together, and the home and away element was obviously a strong appeal.

“You have to think of different ways to keep a team togetherness but what’s really helped us is the players are all playing on the main tour so they’re together a lot.

“It’s been a long gap, we’ve got memories of what happened in 2019, we’ve been together for a long time, we’ve built up over a decade of team spirit.”

The tournament being held across three cities has made Great Britain’s potential path to the final a tricky one to plot but Smith doesn’t want to concentrate on that just yet, he said: “The logistics side will be taken care of regardless and I don’t look at it too much as being a disadvantage if you suddenly go off to Madrid.

“Obviously the way they’ve done it this time with Innsbruck and Madrid being at altitude helps mitigate that change of environment.

“I wouldn’t say it’s ideal but it’s not something we’re overthinking because we’ve got to put all the focus on Saturday and the first match against a very difficult French team.”

Andy Murray has chosen not to be part of another Davis Cup campaign
Andy Murray has chosen not to be part of another Davis Cup campaign (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Current British No4 Liam Broady will be providing back up for the Great Britain team, but Smith held off on naming this fifth player just in case Andy Murray was ready and willing to play.

However, Broady was named last week and Murray has opted to rest and then complete a block of training instead following his three-set defeat to Tommy Paul in his last game of the season earlier this month at the Stockholm Open.

Joe Salisbury, second right, was runner-up in doubles at the ATP Final with American Rajeev Ram
Joe Salisbury, second right, was runner-up in doubles at the ATP Finals with American Rajeev Ram (Luca Bruno/AP)

“Everyone in the team would have loved Andy to be there because he’s been our best British player of all time and to have him in the team it makes a difference on a number of levels, most importantly on the court,” explained the Glasgow-born coach.

“If he’d wanted to change his mind and come in we’d have absolutely loved it but I think all of us understand what he’s gone through, what we needs to do.

“Ultimately it’s the right decision for him to focus on getting a bit of rest and recovery and then building back up.”

The 2021 Davis Cup Finals start on November 25 with the round robin group stages.