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Team spirit is once again propelling Great Britain to Davis Cup success as they look to hold off a Germany team on a revenge mission and reach the semi-finals.
Britain defeated Germany two years ago in Madrid at the same stage of the inaugural finals week before losing a close contest to eventual champions Spain.
Here, Britain and Germany have both had the misfortune to be playing behind closed doors in Innsbruck and are competing on Tuesday to make it to the Spanish capital once again for the climax of the tournament this weekend.
— LTA (@the_LTA) November 29, 2021
Leon Smith has been captain of the British team for more than a decade, keeping many of the same backroom staff throughout his tenure, and they have embraced the challenge of creating their own atmosphere.
“I can tell you I absolutely love the guys here,” said Smith. “It’s not just the players and myself. The support team are just absolutely brilliant. You couldn’t ask for, not just a nicer bunch of people, but everyone goes the extra mile.
“I won’t name them, they’ll get embarrassed, but they do everything for us. They do it with a smile on their face. Everyone feels part of it.
“We’re in the team room in the evening. We’re lucky we have different stuff to be doing, games. We spend time because we enjoy each other’s company. It’s been like that for a long time. Long may it continue.”
There are differences in playing personnel for both teams from 2019, when Kyle Edmund defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber and Dan Evans secured a nail-biting win over Jan-Lennard Struff.
The latter two remain key parts of their respective teams but Evans is set to face Dominik Koepfer while Struff will take on Cameron Norrie.
Should it come down to the doubles, both teams possess some of the best proponents of that discipline in the world, with Britain fielding Joe Salisbury and Neal Skupski and Germany represented by Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz.
Germany captain Michael Kohlmann said: “Now we have our chance to get revenge against Great Britain. I think Great Britain has a great team. We practised with them here in the preparation. Leon is a great guy. I’m really looking forward to the tie.
🇬🇧 🆚 🇩🇪
— LTA (@the_LTA) November 28, 2021
“We have a chance to get to the semi-finals. That’s our goal. But it’s nice to play twice against them in the quarter-finals, so we can see whether we improve or not.”
Britain have the advantage on rankings, with Norrie and Evans at 12 and 25 in the world compared to 51 and 54 for Struff and Koepfer.
But Davis Cup is notoriously unpredictable and both teams had to fight back from behind in their final group matches after upsets, while Germany defeated Novak Djokovic’s Serbia in their opening tie.
Fatigue is also a factor at the end of a long season and Britain were planning a light day of practice on Monday, with rest and recovery the priority.
Kohlmann knows his team face a major challenge, saying: “With Cam Norrie, they have a guy who played in the (ATP Finals) last week, so who had a great year, who won a Masters 1000 in Indian Wells. He’s actually one of the top guys this year in the world.
“Then with Dan Evans, he played two years ago. I think two years ago he was playing out of his mind actually. He played a really great match against Jan-Lennard Struff.
“I’m positive. I have a good feeling. I think we are in a good position. We came through this tough group. We have nothing to lose. Our goal was to go to Madrid. Now we are still here in Innsbruck, but it’s OK. We take it. It’s still there, the goal to go to Madrid.”