When Leon Smith beat Greg Rusedski to the job of succeeding John Lloyd as Davis Cup team captain three years ago, only those at the heart of tennis knew much about him.
The 34-year-old Glaswegian had never played on the Tour and he had spent much of his time as a coach in Scotland, listening to the wisdom of Andy Murray's mother, Judy, herself an outstanding mentor.
After Smith guided Great Britain to a 5-0 win over Turkey in 2010, however, people started listening to what he had to say. Today they are hanging on his every word.
There have been ups and downs since that win but no finer moment than Sunday night when Smith and the team embraced Dan Evans after his three-set blitz of Evgeny Donskoy to complete a remarkable fightback from 2-0 down on day one for a 3-2 victory over Russia in the Euro/Africa Zone One Group tie. That earned them a place in the 16-team World Group play-offs in September. If they win there – they will know their opponents on Wednesday – Great Britain will be back in the big time for the first time in five years.
Come September, Murray, whom Smith coached in Scotland between the ages of 11 and 15, might be available for selection – and that will present the captain with a delicious dilemma: which Coventry hero to drop to accommodate the world No2?
Having been sent to Coventry, in the literal if not metaphorical sense, James Ward, who beat Dmitry Tursunov, and Evans won their reverse singles on a shivering Sunday to warm the coldest of cynical hearts.
"We've had some great messages from Andy," Smith said. "He's very proud of the boys. When he said in the past he wasn't going to play and it was over to the other players to use this as an opportunity, I was confident the likes of James and Dan could go away and reflect on that, look in the mirror and realise they are very good players. This [win] will give them a lot of confidence in the next few months."
After Jonny Marray and Colin Fleming had stopped Russia from winning the tie on Saturday with a commanding performance in the doubles, it was down to Ward, who had lost a tough five-set match on day one, to secure parity against Tursunov, who once resided in the world's top 20. Again he was taken to five sets but he prevailed in probably the best win of his career.
But Smith reserves a special regard for Evans who, at 22, can either put rebellious ways behind him or drift back to the fringe. Against the Russian prodigy Donskoy, he played some breathtaking tennis and Smith said: "It's hard to put a number on it but he can be an awful lot better ranked than he is .
"He is a very gifted tennis player and a very gifted athlete. You can see from the way he recovered from playing five sets [on Friday, losing to Tursunov], even [against Donskoy] he looked fresh. He just needs support, encouragement, direction and will have to keep learning discipline.
"I know he said he likes being looked after 24/7 but you still need to have self-discipline, and that's fine in these weeks when we really put a lot of time and energy into him, but I am confident he can do it on his own. He is still a young lad. Everyone matures differently and I think every time he does something like this [he was similarly brilliant against Slovakia a year ago, then faded from view] it's another chance to realise what he could have out of this sport.
"It's tough for everyone after Davis Cup weeks, win or lose. There's always a bit of a lull, even after the wins. It does bring you back down, when you're used to walking into the team room and everyone claps you amid the team camaraderie. What we need to do is be around the guys in the coming weeks to make sure they do kick on. It's not easy what they've done, so they do need some support."
Smith's biggest call of the week was picking Evans ahead of the more experienced Jamie Baker.
"It was tough," he said. "Jamie's a really good player with an awful lot to offer. We saw that [at the Australian Open] when he was playing well. There's not much between the players but I had a feeling when I got here that I'd like to have a look at Dan and, when I started looking at him, it became clear quite quickly."
Smith might not have been a great player. But he could turn out to be a great coach.
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image: © marianne bevis