Unity, Comedy & Darts: Behind Team Great Britain's Curtain At The ATP Cup
If you want a sense of Team Great Britain’s ATP Cup atmosphere, look no further than the first changeover of Daniel Evans’ match against German Jan-Lennard Struff on Sunday. Evans got on captain Liam Broady’s case to say the least.
“You nervous?” Evans asked.
“About what?” Broady replied.
“You look it. Say something mate, you’re the captain!”
“What do you want me to say?”
“I don’t know like good play or…”
“Yeah, I’ve been saying that every point!”
The entire British Team Zone cracked up throughout the exchange. The clip spread rapidly on social media soon thereafter. In reality, it was normal banter for the group, all done in good fun.
“I spoke to a few of my friends afterwards and they said with Dan you’re never going to get away without being sledged a little bit for lack of a better word,” Broady told ATPTour.com, cracking a laugh. “But he was right. I was nervous, I didn’t know how to behave! It’s tough with players sometimes because everyone is different. Different people want different input.
“But the guys were great out there today. Everyone was really relaxed, having a good time, so it makes it really easy to be on the bench with them and just enjoy the experience, even that bit.”
If you were a fly on the wall with the team, you would quickly see the togetherness of the group. That often means a lot of joking around — usually at the expense of one of the players — but they all enjoy, and it is done in good fun.
“That’s the British sense of humour. Sometimes it could be a bit close to the bone, but at the end of the day, I give it as much as I take it and it’s never meant in a bad way,” Broady said. “We always look out for each other and try to help each other out. When we’re comfortable with each other like that, some touchy things get said, but it’s all water off a duck’s back. I just really enjoy these environments.”
On the court, it was clear that the British team unity paid dividends. Facing a difficult foe in Germany on Sunday evening was a tall task — Alexander Zverev is the No. 3 player in the ATP Rankings and fresh off a victory at the Nitto ATP Finals, and he played both singles and doubles. But with the Team Zone fully engaged, Evans and Jamie Murray crafted a nearly flawless deciding doubles performance to defeat Zverev and two-time Roland Garros doubles champion Kevin Krawietz 6-3, 6-4.
Photo Credit: Andrew Eichenholz/ATP Tour
After match point, Evans and Murray pretended to throw darts at the Team Zone and Murray yelled “One hundred and eighty!”, which is the maximum score in a round. That stemmed from games of darts they had played earlier in the week when spending time together.
“I think everybody understands the main objective of the week is to win, obviously. But it’s just as important that we all have fun, eat together, be around each other and not go back to our rooms and hide away,” Evans said. “We can all spend more time and get ready for the event, because we’ve got to watch each other and hopefully get through the matches.”
Evans is the team’s No. 2 singles player and he is not the captain, but the 31-year-old is the group’s leader. The World No. 25 is the first to joke with his teammates, but also the first to be there for them in support on the court.
“It’s a team event. We’re all pretty good friends, so it’s good to enjoy the week,” Evans said. “The rest of the weeks on Tour could be pretty intense, so it’s nice that we’re all here together, preparing together. It’s important to have fun in weeks like this. You normally get better results as well.”
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
That has carried over to their efforts outside of a team environment, too. Evans and British No. 1 Cameron Norrie have been playing the best tennis of their careers. Norrie in particular had a standout 2021, winning his first title in Los Cabos, capturing ATP Masters 1000 glory at Indian Wells and competing at the Nitto ATP Finals as an alternate.
Neither player has the shotmaking of Roger Federer, the physical presence of Rafael Nadal or one shot that blows opponents away. They are simply blue-collar competitors who grind their opponents down with guile and determination.
“I think both Evo and I are guys who are not going to come out and hit people off the court. We slowly chip away at our opponents and try to play to our strengths,” Norrie said. “I know we are both feeling good. We had a good break, a good preseason and like I’ve said several times already, there’s no better way to start the year than here as a team.
“Hopefully I can perform better than I did last time here and I know Evo loves this team format, team atmosphere. I know Joe [Salisbury] and Jamie absolutely [have] thrived in it as well.”
Broady added that many of the team members train together while home, and that also contributes to their unity. They might not have the starpower of some of the other countries this week, but they still have an x-factor.
“At the end of the day the ATP Cup is a team event. You need more than one player. Obviously Germany also has great players, but on a tennis court it’s just one [against] one or in doubles obviously two [against] two,” Broady said. “It’s a 50-50 shot of winning the match and we feel like our team bench is pretty strong as well and one of our strengths. Especially in the team events that can help alter the results.
“We’ll keep playing to our strengths, keep doing what we do and see how far it takes us.”