Andy Murray's desire to represent Great Britain will not be diminished by their recent fall from grace, according to his close friend Ross Hutchins. This weekend's Davis Cup defeat to Ukraine, Britain's third straight loss in the competition, means John Lloyd's team face another year outside the elite World Group. And should they fail to beat Poland in a Euro/Africa Zone Group One play-off in September, they could even find themselves scrambling to stay in the second tier of the competition. Murray's absence with a virus from this weekend's tie at the Braehead Arena in Glasgow proved once and for all that Britain simply do not possess the strength in depth to cope without him. Lloyd, the captain, also admitted that even with the world No 4 on board, his team were not certain to record the three straight victories needed to return to the World Group. Murray could be forgiven therefore for losing his enthusiasm for the competition. But Hutchins, who partnered Colin Fleming to a courageous doubles defeat yesterday, said: "He's keen to play, that's for sure. He loves playing for his country. "I saw him last week; he wasn't well. And he will be back to play. People always say 'selfish' and all this stuff, but if he was fit, he would've played this tie and I think he wants to play the next tie. "There's no doubt in my mind he's a good guy to have around in the team." On the evidence of this weekend's tie, which Ukraine won with a day to spare, Britain need Murray just to survive in Euro/Africa Zone Group One. The team contained three rookies, only one of whom local boy Fleming appeared to have what it takes to compete at this level. But Lloyd believes even fellow debutants Josh Goodall and Chris Eaton, ranked 192 and 383 respectively, could be capable of winning in the future. "Our job, and all the guys here with the experiences they've had, is to take the level up a notch so that we can grind some of these matches out," he said. To give them the best chance of doing so, Lloyd must surely abandon his policy of setting up courts to Murray's specifications and instead tailor them to suit his weaker players. A fit and firing Murray would have cruised past the likes of Sergiy Stakhovsky and Illya Marchenko on any surface, while Goodall and Eaton were handicapped by the slow court at Braehead. When challenged on this point, Lloyd said: "You can look at it that way. "You'd be nuts not to discuss it and talk about it with your number one player. It wasn't like he said, 'It's either that or I'm not playing'. "He felt that was the best chance to win the three rubbers and I respected that. I thought that was the way to go." Lloyd did hint that the choice of surface against Poland would take into account the needs of the team as a whole.
"I'm not really concerned about Poland at home wherever we play," he added. "But we have to think of the other members of the team as well and how we're going to get a result." The Ukraine No 1 Stakhovsky put some of the blame for Britain's quick-fire defeat this weekend down to their selection policy. He said that the visitors were buoyed by Lloyd's decision to hold play-offs to determine places on his team instead of automatically picking the British No 2 Alex Bogdanovic, who has lost seven of the eight matches he has played in the competition. Lloyd stood by his play-off experiment. "I really hope, to be honest, that all of the guys here will push far enough up the rankings so that we don't have to do the play-offs," he said. *PA Sport