British tennis has fallen far since the nation last won a Davis Cup in 1936, but it hit a new low this weekend with a shock loss to Lithuania in the Davis Cup. British papers are calling it the "most humiliating defeat in their history" and said "the game in Britain has fallen into unacceptable disrepair."
The final blow came Sunday when 19-year-old Dan Evans, one of Britain's next tennis hopes, lost to the 519th ranked player in the world. It was the fourth straight Davis Cup match lost by Evans and the fifth straight overall loss in a tie for the Brits. The team now faces relegation into the third-tier of international tennis in which it would have to play against nations like Albania, Andorra, Malta, Moldova and San Marino. A July playoff against Turkey will decide Britain's fate.
The absence of world No. 4 Andy Murray (he was in California preparing to play at Indian Wells) didn't help the British cause this weekend, but the team shouldn't have needed its star to defeat Lithuania, a country with just three ranked players and a budget of about $100,000. Britain's lawn tennis association brought in around $29 million last year, thanks to Wimbledon.
Money doesn't cure all though. With the exception of Murray, Great Britain has no players in the ATP's top 150. (Kazakhstan has three, for instance.) That's not due to a lack of funding, it's due to a lack of talent. For whatever reason, the Brits haven't been producing talent. Blame the relatively small size of the nation, if you will, but consider that Spain has 19 million less people but eight more players in the top 50.
New coach John Lloyd (yes, Chris Evert's first husband) will likely be the scapegoat for the Brit downfall, but it's not his fault that Murray didn't play or that Evans can't beat a guy ranked 269 spots below him. It's a systemic problem, not one emanating solely from two days of tennis in March. This goes far deeper than a loss by Dan Evans.