If Great Britain choose to play France at Wimbledon in the Davis Cup quarter-final a week after the All England Club’s championship final, a precedent exists – although it stirs grim memories for those who saw Ecuador win 3-2, consigning the hosts to years in the wilderness.
The All England Club let the national team on to the rehabbed grass of Court No 1 the weekend after the 2000 final and 11,000 fans witnessed a rolling anticlimax as Greg Rusedski and Arvind Parmar lost the opening and closing singles, while the doubles team of Parmar and Tim Henman also slipped up. It was all witnessed live on the BBC, compounding the humiliation.
In a predictable response to Roger Taylor’s squad losing to the lightly regarded clay-courters from South America – a team that included Parmar’s 17-year-old conqueror, Giovanni Lapentti, who had first played on grass only a month previously, losing in the second round of the boys’ championship at Wimbledon, and had never been in a five-set match – the Lawn Tennis Association chief executive at the time, John Crowther, said, “no stone will be left unturned” to rescue British tennis from the doldrums.
He added: “We’ll put the people and assets in place to deliver the success we all strive to achieve at the highest level.”
It was a template for the years of false hope that followed Great Britain’s ejection from the competition’s world group.
More pertinently, perhaps, the ground staff at Wimbledon were able to restore the grass to robust health only a week after it had survived a fortnight’s use during the championships.
If they were of a mind to repeat the experiment following the 3-1 win over the USA – and the 2014 finalists France would surely attract a capacity crowd, whatever the venue – it seems it would be possible to fix the surface in time. If Andy Murray were to win Wimbledon – or even reach the final – the quarter-final might best be held on Centre Court, with its roof and 18,000 seats.
As a parting shot 15 years ago, young Lapentti hit an ace: “We all went to see the film Mission Impossible last Thursday. I’m just so happy. I think we should now build a grass court in Ecuador.”
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