It is unlikely that Leon Smith will ever forget the Davis Cup ties that led to that remarkable moment in history and Great Britain’s first triumph since 1936. What he certainly won’t forget is the noise made by the Scottish fans.
“Looking back to March 2015, against the USA, as we walked out for the opening ceremony, I have yet to hear an atmosphere like it and I have been everywhere in tennis. The noise was utterly bonkers and speaks to the fans we have there,” said the GB captain and proud Scot.
“I think that is so important that Scotland gets to see competitive tennis and it is not just the Murrays, who are absolutely adored, but if you ask all the team members about playing in Glasgow they all absolutely love it and we are looking forward to even more of that.”
Great Britain won that tie to progress to the quarter-finals and ultimately added the scalps of France, Australia and Belgium en route to winning the massive trophy but, on 14-16 September, when the action returns to the Emirates, they will do so looking to avoid relegation rather than shooting for greater glory.
They will also do so knowing that it could be the last time they return to Scotland on Davis Cup duty for a very long time. Defeat by Spain in February’s accounts for the former, leaving them in need of victory over Uzbekistan to safeguard their place in the elite World Group, while a shake-up to the competition’s format from next year is the reason for the latter.
A recent vote by the International Tennis Federation led to a move away from the drawn-out schedule, by which fixtures have been staged in February, April, September and November, and, aside from the first round matches in February, will now concertina the majority of the action into one week-long championship-style event at a neutral location, doing away with the old home-and-away ties.
Smith and British tennis’ governing body, the LTA, opposed the switches but have to accept the decision and will instead do everything they can to capitalise on home advantage while they still have it. With the emphasis on winning the tie but also on taking the game to as many fans as possible.
Around 2,000 local schoolchildren will attend the final practice session for the Great Britain team at the Emirates Arena next month as part of the LTA and Tennis Scotland’s Tennis for Kids initiative. Aimed at 4 to 11-year-olds who have never played the game, the scheme was conceived following Great Britain’s 2015 Davis Cup success. So far more than 3,500 children in Scotland have taken part and Smith claims that interaction with kids it is an element of Davis Cup week that the players enjoy most.
“We will lose out on the chance to do more work around these home ties. The players honestly really enjoy that side of it. When I spoke to the players about doing these things and being more interactive – and it was Jamie Murray in the first place who sowed the seeds on this with a conversation we had in a locker room at the French Open – they wanted to get as many children as possible involved.
“ They really embrace that. So, we will miss that. But it will sharpen the thoughts of the LTA because we need to think about what we can do to still get out there.
“In Glasgow we had a Challenger back in May, at Scotstoun, and that was really well attended. It was brilliant, one of the best attended events on our Challengers circuit, including the grass court challengers that we have and there were hundreds of kids there watching in the stands and involved in activities.
“We need to do more of these events to really make sure that children and new fans get access to what we do.”
But the fact this could potentially be the last ever Davis Cup tie in Glasgow, has forced former world No 1 Andy Murray to consider making himself available, despite the fact he is still on an arduous journey on the road to recovery after a year out of the game following a hip operation.
He will assess his fitness in the wake of his tough US Open defeat by Fernando Verdasco, with Smith waiting to finalise his squad next week.
“We have a strong team and a team that keeps getting better and better.” said Smith. “Look at the rise of Kyle Edmund and Cameron Norrie and we have Jamie Murray playing great tennis this summer, Dan Evans has come back really well and we have Andy back competing.
“So once I have had a few conversations to see where the players are at, and we announce the team, I think there will be great excitement. It is going to be a great occasion.”
l Catch Great Britain and Uzbekistan at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena, 14-16th September. For more information and tickets visit lta.org.uk/DavisCup