The 1990s Wimbledon stalwart Tim Henman should take on a higher-profile role within British tennis, according to Dan Evans, who showed off his strong rapport with Henman at the recent United Cup.
In Sydney, Henman’s captaincy brought the best out of Evans, Cameron Norrie and the whole team, who outperformed all expectations to defeat Australia and Spain before falling narrowly to eventual champions USA.
And for Evans – who has recently been critical of Britain’s Davis Cup captain Leon Smith – Henman’s no-nonsense instructions were an important part of the whole campaign.
“He was popular, he was great, he really helped,” said Evans. “I had been on court with him plenty of times before and I was looking forward to it. But I think the girls” – namely Harriet Dart and Katie Swan – “will be the first to say he was amazing for them.
“He was really easy to be around on court. Not pressuring people. It was simple, basic advice which probably staggered them a bit that it was so simple. And it was passionate. That is basically tennis: you try hard, you run after the ball and you hit it in. But it is amazing how many times we don’t do that.
“I think it would be good if he were involved more but there are obvious things in the way of that. You have got to pay him properly and if people are willing to do that and invest in that, I don’t know.”
Staged by Tennis Australia in three different cities around the country, the United Cup brought together male and female players in an official rankings tournament for the first time. The event made an unexpectedly strong start, bringing in almost 200,000 spectators and finding broadcasters in 186 countries.
Indeed, the United Cup might now even have a claim to be the world’s pre-eminent team competition after the Davis Cup – the historic men’s event dating back to 1900 – was thrown into confusion on Friday by the collapse of its staging agreement.
“The United Cup was so much fun,” said British No 2 Harriet Dart, who beat Australia’s Maddison Inglis and also performed strongly in the mixed doubles. “It was pretty special to be part of an event where it’s the first time that it’s happened – and to be with Tim and getting all that experience and help.”
To return to the Davis Cup, the International Tennis Federation ripped up a 25-year agreement with Gerard Pique’s consortium Kosmos on Thursday night, with sources saying that Kosmos had fallen behind on their payments. The original deal, signed in 2018, had required Kosmos to pay US$41 million per annum to the ITF, but it was renegotiated during the pandemic.
“It is disappointing that they can’t keep filling our pockets!” said Evans of Kosmos. “It was a matter of time, wasn’t it? We were getting paid a little too much for not a lot, I guess. But you get it while you can.”
Evans also recommended that the Davis Cup should return to its old approach of home-and-away ties rather than the group format which Kosmos had experimented with (and kept tweaking so that the last five years have delivered five subtly different incarnations).
“The Davis Cup is about the fans,” said Evans. “It’s not about the players, in my opinion. I grew up watching Davis Cup in Birmingham. We played, with all due respect, Thailand and Portugal and they were still getting 12,000 people in there. People were coming to watch Greg [Rusedski] and Tim.
“If you play home-and-away matches I think you’re still getting a good crowd,” added Evans. “When Britain played in Glasgow [which hosted the final Kosmos group-stage event in September], I think we did okay, but the other matches were tough and it doesn’t look good for the tournament.”