Smith confident of Murray return
Davis Cup captain Leon Smith is confident Andy Murray will return to the Great Britain team next year.
Murray missed both of Britain's matches this year as he concentrated on his bid to win a grand slam, which bore fruit at the US Open in September.
That could make him more likely to compete when Britain face Russia in Europe/Africa Zone Group I in April, a tie the hosts would be rank outsiders to win without him.
Smith, who is also the Lawn Tennis Association's head of men's and women's tennis, said: "I had a really positive conversation with him just before he left for Asia (last month) and we talked about all things Davis Cup, not just about that tie itself.
"I would say I left there positive about it and clear on some of the things we can look at to help it fit with his schedule in a more appealing way.
"I'll keep talking with Andy over the next couple of months, I'll see him during pre-season when he's out in Miami and continue those conversations.
"But the way the top three and four are, it's such fine lines in terms of becoming a slam champion or number one in the world, which is obviously a goal. I'd still rather him do that.
"Yes we want him playing Davis Cup, and it would be great to do both, but what he did at the US Open is clearly a massive boost for the whole sport. But I'm feeling positive."
The problem for Smith remains the huge gap behind Murray, with Josh Goodall currently the British number two at 236 in the world.
James Ward, who has been a stalwart for Britain in the Davis Cup in recent years, has struggled with a wrist injury this season while Dan Evans has so far proved unable to build on his performances in the competition elsewhere.
The 22-year-old was Britain's match-winner against Slovakia earlier this year, beating two much higher ranked players, but is languishing at 295 in the rankings.
Smith said: "It is up to the players to step up. The rankings don't lie. The gap between Andy and British number two is not good enough.
"I'm sure if we had a number two player that was closer to being a top 100 player, then of course that's going to appeal even more to our number one player to play because then you feel you've got a really good chance of not just doing well-ish in the competition but to actually go on and challenge to win it.
"We've got one of the best players in the world, and probably for the considerable future, and we've got doubles players who are among the best in the world and are only going to get better.
"It's not unthinkable, if we could try somehow to get a second player, that we could go on and try to win the competition at some point."
There are signs the situation could improve in the not too distant future, with the likes of last year's US Open junior champion Oli Golding, Kyle Edmund, Luke Bambridge and Liam Broady making encouraging progress.
Golding, 19, will travel to Miami during pre-season to join Murray at his training camp, and Smith, who coached his fellow Scot as a junior, believes using him as a model can really help British tennis.
"He's one of the best players in the world and we've got great access to him," Smith added. "Jamie Baker and Oli Golding are both doing that training camp with him, which is amazing for them.
"It spreads the word. They come back to the National Tennis Centre and say, 'Oh my God, Andy gets up at 6am, he's on South Beach running miles and miles until he throws up at the end, he's doing Bikram yoga, he's doing weights, he also playing three hours a day,' and it raises everything."
On Murray's immediate agenda is making sure he qualifies for the semi-finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London when he meets Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the O2 Arena on Friday evening.
With Novak Djokovic taking on Tomas Berdych earlier in the day, the US Open champion will at least know what he needs to do but, irrespective of that result, a straight-sets win for Murray would be enough.
Such are the complications of the round-robin system that Murray could lose tomorrow and go through or win and go out, but the Scot has won his last five matches against Tsonga.
Smith added: "I think what Andy's very good at is understanding against most players how to tactically exploit the opponent and against Tsonga he has obviously worked out a couple of areas and it suits his match-up."