AFTER Judy Murray's first Fed Cup win against Portugal on Wednesday, she said her role as the AEGON Great Britain Team captain was simply one of "keeping the players company".
Following victory over Austria yesterday which clinched promotion to the World Group Two Play-Offs, it would be safe to say that it was a rather modest appraisal of the part she has played in helping her side become the first British team since 1993 to reach the World Group level.
It was unfortunate that such a special achievement in British tennis was accomplished on a side court with a seating capacity of 108, but that did nothing to detract from the moment as the British team embraced in delight and elation after Elena Baltacha secured the tie with a 6-1, 6-4, victory over Tamira Paszek.
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Murray may not have hit a ball this week, but her impact on the British team has been evident. She has forged a tremendous team spirit which has made quite an impression on the people of Eilat. There may only have been three travelling British supporters, but there has also been a number of locals joining in the chants and draping Union Jack flags over their laps. And it is not just off-court that Murray has had an impact. "Judy is very relaxed and fun, but is very good at tactics," said Baltacha. "We have a laugh in the evenings but when we are on court, we know it is time for hard work and business.
"Judy brings so much in tactics by studying the opposition and understanding how you can hurt them in different ways, and all that makes for a very good combination."
In their matches this week, the British team have battled hard from start to finish and they have all played their part. Although Heather Watson and Laura Robson – the two teenagers regarded as the future of British women's tennis – did not have to play yesterday, their win in the doubles to clinch victory against the Netherlands on Thursday played a vital part in helping Britain into yesterday's play-off.
Anne Keothavong got yesterday's tie off on the right note, beating Patricia Mayr-Achleitner 7-6 (5), 6-3, before Baltacha stormed out in stunning fashion, taking the first 16 points of her match, and then holding her nerve to claim the win for Britain and improve her impressive Fed Cup win-loss hard-court record to 19-1.
"If you could bottle Elena's fighting spirit, you could sell it and make a fortune," said Murray. "It is a captain's dream to be sitting on the bench with her. I have known her since she was a young girl and she has always been like that, but to have her leading the team is a real joy."
For Murray, it has been a hugely satisfying first experience as captain. "I've really enjoyed the challenge," she said. "I knew all the girls from before, although not that well, and I didn't have huge experience of the women's game.
"I have had one day at home since December 28 when I went to Auckland and have invested the time trying to get to know not just our girls but the opposition as well, and it's paid off because we have an amazing team spirit.You can see from our reaction at the end."
Murray and her players can now look ahead to the draw on February 14 and a tie in April, either home or away, against potential sides including the USA, France and Australia. A prospect which Murray predicts will be "yet another challenge".