Tennis: Ex-coach has high praise for Fleming ahead of Davis Cup

Fresh from becoming part of the first British men's doubles team for 18 years to reach a Wimbledon quarter-final, Colin Fleming will return to his Scottish roots this weekend.

The Broxburn-born 26-year-old is part of a Great Britain Davis Cup tennis squad also including the Murray brothers, Andy and Jamie, as well as James Ward, for a Europe/ Africa Zone Group II tie against Luxembourg at the Braehead Arena, Glasgow.

And, while Fleming partnered Ross Hutchins to the brink of a semi-final appearance at SW19 - they lost 6-4 in the fifth set to Germany's Christopher Kas and Alex Peya of Austria - this time he'll be on court with Jamie Murray as the tie takes on a distinctly tartan tinge.

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It is a combination that goes back a long, long way - as Edinburgh coach Brian Barnet well knows.

Barnet, who has just gained the LTA Master Performance Coaching award, making him only the third such recipient in Scotland and the first from the East of the country, initially assisted Fleming, pictured right, over a decade ago and was responsible for inviting him to spend a couple of seasons as a teenager playing in and around Edinburgh for the Blackhall club men's team.

Says Barnet: "I first came across Colin when I was travelling to Stirling almost every day to coach Andy and Jamie Murray as youngsters. When it came to group coaching Colin was part of that same set-up.

"Colin didn't have the opportunity to go abroad to learn as Andy did but he was still very determined to do well.

"What always impressed me about Colin was his quick hands at the net and watching him at Wimbledon in a men's doubles event I'm convinced he and Ross Hutchins might have gone on to win if they'd got through that tight quarter final.

"I was struck how fit he looked even by comparison with some of the fittest sportsmen around.

"Colin's outstanding work ethic is also something that has stayed with me and maybe he took a bit longer to develop because with Scots - apart from Andy and Jamie Murray - there is always an element of 'am I good enough?'.

"Once Colin started to get a few results he realised, yes, he was good enough and I think his spell between university and the tennis tour working in an office helped focus him a bit, too, in wanting to be outdoors playing the tennis circuit.

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"All told, I coached Colin up until about 12 years ago when the Next Generation club opened in Newhaven and Judy Murray began coaching there. That's when he moved there.

"I still see Colin occasionally, though, and the last time our paths crossed was at the National Tennis Centre, Roehampton, a few months ago.

"He was tired from a lot of travelling but still the same nice bloke he's always been."

In recent times, Fleming, who along with Hutchins emulated 1993 British men's Wimbledon quarter-finalists Chris Wilkinson and Paul Hand, has continued to maintain local links by turning out at national competition level for the Linlithgow club where older brother, Michael, is club coach.

Says Michael: "Colin helped us finish second in the AEGON national league last year where we came up against clubs from Manchester, Leeds and Wrexham.

"Whenever he is around he drops in at our club including helping at a tennis festival for West Lothian primary schools and there is a huge buzz about this weekend's Davis Cup tie with a lot of members heading for the Braehead Arena.

"I think it definitely did strike Colin when he was working behind a desk for a spell that he had to get out there and test his abilities especially with a degree to fall back on.

"Certainly, there was nobody keener as a youngster and he'd always be pestering myself, my sister or our dad to play. Our house was just a stone's throw from the courts at Linlithgow." Colin's travels have since taken him around the world and Commonwealth Games tennis manager, Peter Nicolson, recalls: "Colin had to work hard on the logistics of getting to Delhi from Shanghai where he was competing until just before the Games' tennis got underway.He blended into the multi-sports environment perfectly and put his mixed doubles partner at ease by telling Jocelyn Rae 'I'll do the aggression and you be sure to enjoy yourself'.

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"Seeing Colin come through from a wee lad competing in my Waverley club's junior tournament to the international stage has been a real treat."

Understandably, a Davis Cup tie north of the Border is special for Fleming himself.

"I'm so excited about playing Davis Cup again. Going back to play at the Braehead Arena in Scotland will be extra special for me as it's where I made my debut," said the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist (with Jocelyn Rae in the mixed doubles).

"I always look forward to playing Davis Cup and whilst we'll have a strong team, we will be completely focused on winning the tie. No doubt we'll have a great time, but winning will be the most important thing and that's exactly what we intend to do."