Great Britain captain Leon Smith is not holding Andy Murray responsible for the team’s loss to Italy in the Davis Cup quarter-finals, and has praised him for 'putting the team first'.
The Wimbledon champion was comprehensively beaten by Fabio Fognini on Sunday in three sets (6-4, 6-3, 6-4), before Andreas Seppi’s victory over James Ward completed a 3-2 overall win for the home team, who had come into the final day’s action trailing 1-2 after losing the doubles rubber on Saturday.
It was the third tie that Murray had played in the space of three days, and he had previously beaten Seppi across two days in his first singles rubber, before teaming up with Colin Fleming to defeat the Italian doubles pairing of Fognini and Simone Bolelli.
Smith feels that there was little the 27-year-old could have done to prevent losing to Fognini, and thinks it was unselfish of Murray to play in three matches over the course of the weekend - especially after fighting off illness shortly before the tie began.
"I can say clearly he put his team first yet again," he said, according to the BBC.
"Fognini played a great match. He was fired up from the crowd. I actually think Andy played a really good match, I think it was high quality.
"We saw two very, very good tennis players and the fans would have been treated to a pretty amazing tennis match. Fabio played well and it's a tough ask for Andy to play so much tennis over the course of a few days, especially when he's coming in a little bit ill before the tie."
Murray had been on a run of 19 Davis Cup wins in a row, and it was his first singles defeat in the competition since losing to Stanislas Wawrinka in a tie away to Switzerland in 2005.
He had been hoping to steer his team into their first semi-final of the competition since 1981, and they were playing in their first quarter-final since 1986.
But he has been struggling for form this season, and is yet to fully recover from back surgery last September which put an end to his season in 2013, forcing him to miss out on the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 in London.
Murray is yet to make the final of a singles tournament this year, but Smith thinks that patience is the key for him to return to form ahead of the French Open.
Smith added: “He's had a tough schedule and he's still coming back from that lengthy injury time-out last year.
"It's going to take time to build up, but every passing week he just looks better and better.
"I thought this week he played some great tennis and he'll get stronger from this again. There's no doubt he'll look back and be very disappointed to lose, but I think he should be proud of his efforts and he's playing very, very good tennis."
This year’s Davis Cup has seen Great Britain compete in the World Group for the first time in six years, and their victory over USA in San Diego last February ensured that they will be playing in the first round of the competition again next year.
Despite missing out on the chance to face Switzerland in the last four, the team have come a long way since competing in the Europe/Africa zone just over a year ago, where at one point they were in danger of being relegated to the lowest level of the competition.
The loss to Italy brought an end to a run of four straight wins across 2013 and 2014, and Smith believes that the team are heading in the right direction.
He concluded: “It is progress. We're all absolutely gutted we lost this because we saw the chance of a semi-final place, and it would have been at home so we'd have been a strong position.
"But we're very proud of the progress over the last few years.”
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