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Is Leon Smith the man to save British tennis?

Leon Smith and Andy Murray in 2006
Smith and Andy Murray at Roland Garros in 2006

By Kheredine Idessane

Will a Scot save British tennis? And I don't just mean Andy Murray.

Leon Smith, Murray's former coach, has been confirmed as the next Davis Cup captain, following John Lloyd's resignation.

It is a bit of a poke in the eye for Greg Rusedski, who was widely tipped to succeed Lloyd.

But it is yet another vindication of the progress tennis seems to be making north of the border. Britain's only world-class tennis player is a Scot.

A third of the last Davis Cup squad were Scots (Colin Fleming and Jamie Baker, who sadly had to withdraw due to injury).

And now one of Scotland's (indeed, Britain's) top tennis coaches has been asked by the Lawn Tennis Association to restore some pride in the British game after that humbling Davis Cup defeat in Lithuania.

So, who is Leon Smith?

Well, currently, he is the LTA's head of player development for men's tennis.

And his association with the game's governing body stretches back nearly a decade.

Murray won his first five international men's ITF Futures events while working with Smith

Kheredine Idessane

He was the academy coach for Scotland in 2002 and then became the national training coach for Scotland two years later.

He has coached some of Scotland's top juniors in his time - among them, Andy and Jamie Murray, Graeme Dyce and Nicola Allan.

Allan won the British National Championships at 13, 14 and 15 before going on to win International Tennis Federation under-18 junior events.

But Leon Smith is probably best known for his association with Andy Murray.

He began coaching Murray when he was 11 - and together they won the Orange Bowl (basically, the world championships for the under-12s).

The British number one, as he is now, then went to the Sanchez-Casal academy in Barcelona to develop his career and won the 2004 US Open junior title working with Pato Alvarez.

It should not be forgotten, though, that Murray won his first five international men's ITF Futures events and earned his first Davis Cup call-up while working with Smith.

And they have kept closely in touch ever since.

Murray would have been consulted about Smith's suitability for the Davis Cup captaincy - indeed, Smith's relationship with the best thing in British men's tennis since Fred Perry may be very good news for future Davis Cup teams.

Now 34, Smith started coaching when he was only 18 - working for the first few years at various clubs around Scotland, such as Giffnock, Troon, Mount Vernon and Bridge of Allan.

606: DEBATE

From 1998 onwards he started to focus on elite players.

That year he was appointed national performance officer at Tennis Scotland.

Two years later, he joined the Next Generation club in Edinburgh and was involved in setting up and running its performance academy.

In 2002, he returned to Tennis Scotland as the LTA academy coach for Scotland before becoming the country's training coach in 2004.

Three years later, he became the LTA's national under-16s men's coach and took charge of the under-18s in 2008-09.

He was then promoted to head of player development for the whole of the British men's game, the position he currently holds.

We will find out officially who the next Davis Cup captain is on Monday. I fully expect it to be Smith, as this is not an opportunity he is likely to turn down.

Especially with fellow Scots Murray, Murray, Fleming and Baker ready to give the British squad a very Scottish - and hopefully a very successful - new outlook.



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see also
Smith set to be named GB captain
08 Apr 10 |  Tennis


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