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Davis Cup final: Judy Murray proud of 'third son' Leon Smith

Judy Murray will feel great maternal pride at this weekend's Davis Cup final in Ghent -- but not only when watching her children Andy and Jamie represent Britain.

The mother of Britain's best singles and doubles players will feel a similar warmth towards team captain Leon Smith.

"As Leon has known Jamie and Andy since they were very young, it's like he is part of our family. I feel as though he's my third son," Judy Murray told ESPN.

"There's no doubt that I'll be very proud when the British team walks out in Ghent, and not just because Jamie and Andy are in the team, but because they will be led out by Leon."

Smith's tennis career can be traced back to an introduction with the Murrays almost 20 years ago. Judy described him as a college dropout who looked "quite Beckham-esque with bleached-blond hair, a centre-parting and a diamond stud in each ear".

This "cool dude" would go on to become Andy Murray's boyhood tennis coach, and for the past five years has captained Great Britain's Davis Cup team.

When Smith took on the responsibility in 2010 the team was on the verge of being relegated to the competition's lowest level. He has taken them to the country's first final since 1978, and is now seeking a first triumph since 1936.

Strange as it may seem, Smith's peroxide hair and earrings were hugely important for the history of British tennis; as Judy disclosed, that look meant Andy and Jamie immediately thought he was "cool".

If the coach had turned up in the Murrays' lives with his hair still its natural dark colour, and without diamonds in his ears, there is the possibility he would not have ended up working with Andy, and Great Britain's Davis Cup team might not be in Belgium today.

"Leon had just dropped out of college," Judy said. "He came to me and said that he wanted to be a tennis coach and to work alongside me.

"At the time, I was the national coach in Scotland, and we didn't have staff and we didn't have a big budget. So I took him on as a kind of apprentice.

"Jamie was about 11 at the time, and Andy was 10. For the boys, Leon was a cool dude, quite Beckham-esque. He had played county-level tennis, and could hit well, so he looked the part.

"The main thing for me was that he was really keen to learn and was willing to work hard. He was one of a number of young coaches that I tried to develop with some money I got from Sport Scotland. He would take advantage of all the opportunities that came his way."

In the five years of Smith's captaincy, Britain has gone from the margins of this competition to within three matches of glory in Flanders this weekend.

His first tie was against Turkey in Eastbourne in the summer of 2010, when defeat would have seen Britain dropping into Europe-Africa Zone Group Three, the competition's lowest division.

One of the founding nations of the Davis Cup, and a Grand Slam host, would have found itself competing against the likes of San Marino, Andorra and Iceland.

Smith's appointment was a risk for the Lawn Tennis Association, and not universally welcomed. With John Lloyd departing as captain after the ignominy of defeat to Lithuania and chief executive Roger Draper under pressure, the safest option would have been to have offered the job to Greg Rusedski, who was keen on the role.

However, instead of choosing Rusedski, a former Grand Slam finalist who had played 43 Davis Cup matches for Britain, the LTA turned to Smith.

Smith's record never came close to Rusedski's, with the coach himself describing his playing career as "bang average". He even had a few doubts and didn't immediately accept.

Jamie Murray thought the LTA had an ulterior motive for the appointment -- to encourage his brother to play. He made his feelings clear in a tweet: "Do you honestly think this will make him play? So transparent."

There's no doubt that the closeness of Smith and Andy Murray's relationship hasn't done the coach or the Davis Cup team any harm.

It's easy sometimes to ridicule the role of a Davis Cup captain, to suggest there's little more to it than writing the player selections down and handing out towels during the changeovers. But making sure that a country's best player wants to be involved is a key element.

"It's a big advantage for Leon that he knows Jamie and Andy so well," Judy said. "I know from my own experience of being the Fed Cup captain that when you're sitting on the bench with somebody, and trying to build a team spirit, it's much easier to get a performance out of players if you know them very well as people.

"You have to invest that time to get to know them away from the court as people because when you're sitting there at the changeovers you have to know not just what to say, but when to say it. And when to say nothing, as well."

One of Smith's greatest strengths, Judy said, is his ability to communicate. "I've watched Leon develop over the years and he has become not just a very good coach but also a very good captain of the national team.

"He's a very good communicator. That's one of the most important ingredients of being a good coach and being a good captain, too," she added.

"Leon's been a big part of Andy and Jamie's lives, no doubt about that." Judy Murray

"Of course, Leon is very different now to when he first approached me and asked if he could become a coach. He's in his late thirties now, and he's married with three kids, and is much more mature."

When Smith walks out into the Flanders Expo with the Davis Cup final about to begin, Judy will find herself spooling back to their first meeting.

She said: "What an incredible job he has done taking the team to the final, when not so long ago Britain was in the nether regions of this competition. It's been an incredible journey for Leon through the Davis Cup.

"For me, to see the three of them walking out there -- Jamie, Andy and Leon -- that will make me think back to being in the tennis centre in Stirling when the boys were very little and Leon had his Beckham-esque hair and his diamonds.

"He's been a big part of Andy and Jamie's lives, no doubt about that."