Davis Cup: Andy Murray put Great Britain team first - Leon Smith

Andy Murray "put his team first" as he played four times in three days in the 3-2 Davis Cup defeat by Italy, said Great Britain captain Leon Smith.

Murray lost 6-3 6-3 6-4 to Fabio Fognini as the Italians drew level at 2-2, before Andreas Seppi beat James Ward 6-4 6-3 6-4 in the decider.

The Wimbledon champion had played his opening singles over two days, before the doubles and second singles.

"I can say clearly he put his team first yet again," Smith told the BBC.

GB men in world rankings

  • 8: Andy Murray (Age, 26)
  • 130: Dan Evans (23)
  • 161: James Ward (27)
  • 233: Dan Cox (23)
  • 272: Dan Smethurst (23)
  • 286: David Rice (25)
  • 298: Kyle Edmund (19)

"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."

Britain were playing in the Davis Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 1986 and looked on course for a first semi-final since 1981 when Murray and Colin Fleming put them 2-1 ahead by winning Saturday's doubles rubber.

Fognini has won three clay-court titles in the last year, however, and showed his class on the surface against Murray, who is still recovering his form after back surgery in September.

It was only Murray's second singles defeat in the Davis Cup and ended a run of 19 straight wins.

"He's had a tough schedule and he's still coming back from that lengthy injury time-out last year," said Smith. "It's going to take time to build up, but every passing week he just looks better and better.

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"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."

While Italy move on to a semi-final against Switzerland, Britain can take a measure of comfort from the fact that they have guaranteed a place in the first round of the elite World Group in 2015.

"It is progress," said Smith. "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.

"We've got between now and next year to keep improving our number two singles spot with James, Dan [Evans], Kyle [Edmund], whoever that might be, so that we're an even stronger force next year."