New to the professional coaching fold, Great Britain’s ATP Cup captain Tim Henman believes his team has the depth necessary to be a major factor at January’s showpiece.
Great Britain will head to Sydney having landed in Group C alongside Belgium, Bulgaria and Moldova, with a five-man squad featuring Andy and Jamie Murray, Dan Evans, Cameron Norrie and Joe Salisbury.
Henman, a former world No.4 and four times a Wimbledon semifinalist, will take the reins as the team attempts to become champions at ATP Cup’s inaugural edition.
"I think that's an area that's improved in British tennis – we've got a bit of strength in depth,” he observed.
“With Andy Murray, Dan Evans and Cam Norrie I think we've got a good trio in the singles element, and then Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury; Joe really had an unbelievable year, making the ATP Finals. Jamie's been around for a long time, he's got the experience, played a lot with Andy.
“So I think as a rookie captain, I like the fact that we've got options on the singles court, and with doubles. A lot to look forward to.”
Henman, who last played in 2007 to conclude an impressive 14-year pro career, has not coached any player or team professionally in 12 years of retirement.
The 45-year-old has instead focused on family life, BBC commentary work during Wimbledon and the Nitto ATP Finals, occasional tennis exhibition appearances and his work on the board of the All England Club.
It was an approach from Andy Murray – a player with whom he has a long association and friendship – which piqued his interest.
"I think Andy asking me was a big part of it ... he's not going to be around forever,” Henman said.
“It wasn't necessarily something I'd given a great deal of thought to. But when he mentioned it, I thought that would be interesting. Obviously it's a new event, I think in Australia it's a great time of year in the lead up to the Australian Open. They were all positives; I haven't found a negative yet.
“So when he said, 'How about it?', the more I thought of it, I said, 'Yeah, let's do it.' I'm very excited about it.”
Murray’s comeback in 2019 following hip resurfacing surgery in January is something Henman described as “unbelievable”.
That comeback peaked in October when Murray won the indoor title in Antwerp – his first ATP trophy in two and a half years.
It was somewhat extraordinary, then, to hear Murray say he arrived at last week’s Davis Cup Finals “weighing four or five kilos more than you’re used to” after just a month earlier being pleased with his physical conditioning and performance in Antwerp.
"I went to his house yesterday and he was sort of laughing about it ... it's funny isn't it, how these things turn so quickly,” Henman said.
“Basically after Antwerp, Kim and Andy had the birth of their third child, a son. And he had a couple of niggles – he had a bit of a problem with his elbow after Antwerp and was going to take time off. And he basically said, all he did was sit at home and eat biscuits (laughter).
“Just prior to Davis Cup, he jumped on the scales and he couldn't believe it, he was suddenly four or five kilos overweight (laughter). He was having a big salad when I saw him yesterday.”
Henman is confident the former world No.1 and three-time major champion will be ready to go come January.
And, having kept a close eye on the professional game – and Great Britain’s opposition – as both a commentator and in his position at Wimbledon, he said he was looking forward to working with his team to get the best out of them in Sydney.
"It's very much a collaboration. Working with the player, with their coach … it's never about teaching them how to hit new shots – it's much more about strategies, game plan, how to match up against different players,” he explained.
“And (it’s also about) creating an environment where we're going to have fun, we're going to work hard, and we're going to get out on court and give it our best shot. It's about giving them the best opportunities to play their best tennis.
"For me, when I retired from tennis, the one trip that I did miss was Australia in January. I love the country, I love the people, I love the way they embrace sport – it's part of the culture.
“There are always going to be Brits in Australia, so there's no doubt we'll have great support, and fingers crossed we can give them something to shout about.”