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British tennis stunned by events in Vilnius

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Jonathan Overend | 15:43 UK time, Monday, 8 March 2010

Like a dazed party of stags, coming round the morning after the night before, the Lawn Tennis Association high command bravely fronted up today here in Vilnius.

The wreckage was not of broken bottles or body parts, the stench not of alcohol poisoning, but British tennis had effectively been stripped bare, roped to a tree and beaten with branches.

Defeat to Lithuania had been total humiliation. At least the bosses admitted so. "It's like being in a very bad dream," LTA chief executive Roger Draper told BBC Sport. "Along with lots of other British tennis fans [we are] sharing the humiliation of losing to Lithuania."

Britain's 3-2 defeat to a team of teenagers, only one of whom has a ranking inside 500, means a relegation play-off at home to Turkey in July. Defeat there will send us down to the fourth tier of the competition entry level - along with Moldova, Malta, San Marino and Armenia.

Just as captain John Lloyd had refused to make a snap decision about his future, LTA bosses confirmed they would take their time before judging the impact of a fifth successive Davis Cup defeat.

On one hand it's a surprise that Lloyd hasn't gone already - he's the first British captain in 110 years to endure such a run - and, unfortunately for this popular captain, sporting history is littered with leaders who have had to carry the can for poor results.

Sometimes no further justification is needed. Sport is harsh like that. Just ask former England football manager Graham Taylor.

For all Lloyd's qualities - and there are many - that horrific phrase "mutual consent" may be appearing on an LTA statement sometime soon.

John Lloyd
John Lloyd will be haunted by events in Vilnius

But can anyone else do any better? Probably not. Some candidates may not have as much support from the players as Lloyd undoubtedly had. That will be absolutely crucial.

So should one of his bosses walk the plank instead? Is anyone brave enough to take the heat from the captain and accept the failings of his team are symptomatic of a wider malaise?

A review of the weekend's events, assessing all aspects of the current predicament, will be led by LTA player director Steven Martens. The unlikely conclusion is that the person in overall charge of performance should take responsibility, that person being Martens himself.

So then we come to Draper. Is it time for him, after four years at the top of a rich under-achieving governing body, to consider his own position?

"No, because you have to put it in perspective and there's a huge amount of progress being made," he insists. However, he did say, earlier in the interview, that he "always takes ultimate responsibility for British tennis".

He regrets that the Davis Cup is clouding a lot of good work currently going on in clubs, schools and parks. He talks about good things like progress of juniors, extra numbers competing and the improvements on the women's side. Basically all the same stuff we heard from him last year.

If he really is ultimately responsible then he has to balance those successes with the "humiliation" he has just experienced and make a judgement.

The weekend was a harsh life-lesson for the inexperienced group of British players, but they actually emerged, strange as this may sound, with credit.

Nobody froze, nobody flipped. They couldn't be faulted for effort, and their attitude was exceptional throughout. All four, I am sure, will play Davis Cup again and return stronger for the experience of Vilnius.

Should Dan Evans have finished off Laurynas Grigelis after dominating the end of the fourth set? Possibly. But you had to be in the arena to appreciate how well Grigelis played the big moments of the match.

When Evans had 15-40, leading 2-1 final set, Grigelis pulled out four ridiculously good shots which made a mockery of his ranking of 521. The young man deserved his win and was rightly hailed the hero as his team-mates mobbed the court at the end.

So congratulations Lithuania - a basketball country with an annual tennis budget of around £90,000 - you hosted us well, deserved the victory and, unwittingly, turned up the heat on the men with the Roehampton millions.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    hilarious!
    more excuses and more failure.
    just gets better every time we flop

  • Comment number 2.

    Pitiful, but then it has been for a long, long time.

    Given the budget, facilities, population size, and hosting of arguably the top tournament in the world, this is completely unacceptable. But this has all been said, many, many times before. The problems are clearly so ingrained that you have to start to question if Britain will ever consistently produce a noteworthy amount of top players.

  • Comment number 3.

    It's the same old story. Professional tennis is played in England mainly by people from pampered middle class backgrounds.

    They don't have the mental strength to cope with pressure situations, even though they might have the nicest rackets and the best facilities. They don't have the desire to prove themselves and make a name. Daddy has already got the Bentley parked in the garage.

    There's no fight or desire, and then people wonder why they can't beat hungry and aggressive Eastern Europeans or South Americans who dream of earning money, being famous sports stars and making a name for themselves.

  • Comment number 4.

    You say John Lloyd has the support of the players, but I don't know if he has much support from the British number 2 Alex Bogdanovic.

    Certainly, Lloyd has never shown much support for Boggo

  • Comment number 5.

    Judging from these comments from Draper, I suspect John Lloyd is indeed going to get the bullett. I think Draper, Annacone and especially Martens should all go to. But I suspect that LTA reckon ditching Lloyd will appease angry fans enough. I think they'll probablies end up being right on that one.

    I think it was a mistake by Lloyd not to include Bogdanovic, and perhaps he wasn't included because of their differences of opinion in the past. He may have made the difference. I don't think there's any real point in sacking Lloyd, unless he's unable to swallow his pride and allow players whom he had previously turned his back on back into the squad.

    He also mentioned how we should've won on rankings, almost suggesting that rankings are irrelevant. If so, why wasn't Chris Eaton included? He has been one of GB's better performers during the last couple of years, I felt he did well v Ukraine - a lot better than Goodall.

  • Comment number 6.

    Jonathan you said

    "Should Dan Evans have finished off Laurynas Grigelis after dominating the end of the fourth set? Possibly. But you had to be in the arena to appreciate how well Grigelis played the big moments of the match.

    When Evans had 15-40, leading 2-1 final set, Grigelis pulled out four ridiculously good shots which made a mockery of his ranking of 521."
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    But how can this not be Dan Evans fault. Again we see a British player in one sport or another bottle it when it comes to an important part of the game. How come most foreign players step up and produce and we don't seem to.

    I think that if the LTA which makes an obscene amount of money off the back of Wimbledon should lose its funding from the Lottery and UK Sport until it can get its act together.

    Were the Lithuanian players ranked above us in the world or not? If they weren't then how can you say that "Nobody froze"!! I'm sure for some of them it would have been the biggest game of the career so far but they failed.

    All this proves is how poor our Associations are at managing all sports and how these people just take huge salaries for doing very little. Surely they should be paid very little and get performance related bonus's depending on how well our players do throughout the year as well as in the team cup matches!!

  • Comment number 7.

    This was indeed a complete shambles. Upon checking out the results of the various other 1st Round Group II (Europe / Africa) fixtures this weekend, only one name in the entire 8 squads was recognisable to the average tennis fan. Let along the man on the street. And this was Marcos Baghdatis. Which just illustrates at what a low level Great Britain are currently competing.

    I have a degree of sympathy for the players involved. Barring our long overdue competent doubles pairing, the guys just aren't good enough. And no matter how much money is thrown at facilities, coaches and the various personnel around these players, they just do not quite have the raw talents to make it to anywhere near the highest level in tennis. Challenger events maybe. But carrying the hopes of the LTA, and what little of the Great British public is remotely interested in the Davis Cup, is just not something that we should realistically expect out of these guys.

    And there lies the underlying problem with British tennis. A woeful lack of strength in depth. The likes of Henman and Rusedski papered over the cracks for a number of years. Rusedski played Davis Cup for 13 years. And for a player of good, but when judged at the very top of the game, limited ability, it illustrates the short-sightedness that the LTA have exhibited over a number of years.

    And to be honest, the main problem, in my opinion, lies not at the multi-million pound tennis centres. Whether in Roehampton or Bisham Abbey or wherever else. But at grass-routes level. And worrying the LTA have identified this as an area requiring strengthening. But the realities are that changes just haven't materialised to a great enough extent. It costs an absolute fortune to play tennis. Which kids, earning a few quid a week in pocket money, are going to shell out a tenner, often substantially more, to hire a court for an hour? Instead, they'll go down the park and kick a ball about. Which doesn't cost. Tennis facilities, outside of the elite centres in the UK, are appalling. Delapidated just about sums up the state of which the majority of the courts find themselves. It's not attractive. And it has to be for kids. Add on top of this the rising costs of coaching and tennis is in serious danger of distancing itself from your average family, and the average kids, and this elitist attitude is without a doubt contributing significantly to a depleted pool of youngsters from which to select from.

  • Comment number 8.

    It is ridiculous that given all the budgets, the facilities and inspiration (namely Andy Murray and Wimbledon), that we still do not have a collective group of youngsters that are capable of beating a nation that has never produced a top 100 tennis player!

    It should have been comfortable. However, the doubles was a struggle, and the two five setters against mere teenagers humiliating...and the only straight forward match came from James Ward at the beginning of the tie. John Lloyd has to go. He sits at the side of the court clapping like a grandfather clapping his grandson at a local tennis club match. He has no inspiring look, no extravagant celebrations after good points; he just stands up...there is no fire there to push the players after every game. Greg Rusedski will not want to join the Davis Cup elite of failures; having had quite a successful singles career, I doubt he will want to step into the limelight and take charge. British tennis is in big trouble!

  • Comment number 9.

    Draper has to go. For too long we've heard the same thing from him and nothing seems to be changing.

    He first came in and announced a five-year plan for getting more players in the top 100 - in men's and women's tennis. He scrapped it within a couple of years because the targets had no chance of being met.

    If he "takes ultimate responsibility for British tennis", then he should be leading the way in leaving his lucratively paid job with Martens - and maybe Lloyd (can Greg or anyone else do better with what we've got at present?) - following through the exit door.

  • Comment number 10.

    Subterreanean - you are a massive idiot. The function of the LTA is to fund players of any background (it's interesting that the three most successful male singles players of recent years have come from outside the LTA). The problem is not with the background of players (look at Federer and Nadal, for a start), but the entire structure of junior tennis in this country.

    This latest humiliation is an excellent opportunity for a much needed reform of funding and development currently under the LTA's control. Unfortunately, it won't be taken (yet again).

  • Comment number 11.

    Tennis is a middle class sport which costs money. It is not accessible to your average kid. It is hardly taught in schools, not that makes a lot of difference because it is basically difficult to learn and acheive a level of success at first. Eastern Europeans have success because they are hungry for it. Our kids are not. As somebody qouted earlier, they would rather kick a football.
    Don't know what the answer is. There is no incentive for your average kid to learn a difficult skill.

  • Comment number 12.

    'All this proves is how poor our Associations are at managing all sports and how these people just take huge salaries for doing very little.'

    No all this proves is that there are people out there who are always pessimistic and look to tar every sport as being a failure in Britain when recent evidence suggests otherwise.

    So tennis fails. At the same time our hockey boys reach a world semi for the first time in 20 years.

    If all our sports were badly run they we would not have finished 4th in the Olympics medal table in 2008, won the Ashes in 2009 etc...

  • Comment number 13.

    Is it really unacceptable that Evans and Ward lost to Berankis and Grygelis IN Lithuania? Because all those names seem pretty even to me, Berankis being the only player standing out...and the tie being played in Vilnus. Is it really unacceptable that they barely lost ? What I hear from Overend is that what is unacceptable is that a country with the budget that Great Britain has loses to a country with a £90,000 budget as Lithuania.

    And this is what the problem in British Tennis has always been in my opinion. That people like Overend think money translates in sport success. If that were the case, Great Britain would probably dominate the world of tennis and many other big sports

    What does translate in success is adequate knowledge and hard work. Especially hard work. If you want to be a good tennis player work hard, put in hours and hours of work and if you are talented and smart enough, that will translate into success.

    What does Great Britain do? They hire coaches from all around the world, give them fat paychecks regardless of what their input can be. Some coaches are good forming young players some just are good tacticians for high level matches like Paul Annacone. Some are just plain bad as Louis Cayer. Some are great women's coaches as Nigel Sears. They give tons of money away to fund players, pay for coaches thinking the more they spend, the higher the coaches salary, the more successful Birtish players will be.

    That's not how it works. Going back to the Davis Cup team. It is not surprising or unacceptable that those players lost to Lithuania. If GBR's number 1 & 2 singles players don't play...then GBR is a European Group II or III team. But Overend and others still judge them as if Murray and Bogdanovic were still playing. If they couldn't beat Ukraine with Murray what makes them think it would be "embarrassing" to lose against Lithuania in Vilnus.

    About Lloyd. I don't think Bogdanovic would have lost against Grygelis. Why are there 3 doubles players in the team? The third one having a 0-4 record on Davis Cup. Is there a double standard with negative Davis Cup records? Would Bogdanovic be in the team if he were Andy Murray's good friend like Hutchins is? These are all strange decisions that make me think Lloyd is being influenced or lacks criteria or personality to be the team Captain.

    On a final note, don't judge this team on their budget. Judge the four players that played in Vilnus. They weren't embarrassing in my opinion.

  • Comment number 14.

    The problem with British Tennis as anyone who has children playing will tell you is this-ALL the focus and attention are on the top 5 or 6 boys and girls beginning at around 12 years old. through to 18.They are given all the funding and support and training that keeps them at the top for a few years-often artificially because perhaps those 5 0r 6 won't be world class and who knows about the others who were in the top 100 who could not afford the time and money to continue on.For a promising junior it takes at least £1,ooo a month minimum.The LTA puts all its eggs in one basket year after year....Where are the indoor centres?Where is the funding for racquets,lessons for the really motivated kids?Tennis in schools is almost non existenet...Roehampton is like a ghost town...it is only for the very top players....If you only have 5 or 6 players in each year-where is the depth?There isn't any.Put a Brad Gilbert type at the top-some one who knows how to produce winners...not just more suits.

  • Comment number 15.

    What annoys me is that the LTA said they won't take knee jerk reaction. How can it be a knee jerk reaction if they have not reacted for five matches? If they actually did something it would just be a reaction there would be nothing knee jerk about it.

  • Comment number 16.

    No need to add what I feel to comments already said here .. but I know one thing that causes me anger everytime I remember it. A friend of ours is a postman and had occasion to deliver a package to the front door of a rather large, grand house in a very expensive part of the borough where I live. To say the man who answered the door had an "attitude" we were told was putting it mildly. He then announced to our startled friend (who is not a tennis fan) "I'm an LTA tennis coach". My reaction to this little story was - just how much is this said tennis coach being paid to live in this VERY expensive house and if I'd been the said postman, I'd have suggested he kept quiet about what he did for a living as judging from the lack of results re Brit tennis he wasn't very good at it.

  • Comment number 17.

    Obviously the comnparisons made between funding highlight the ridiculous state of UK tennis. Lavish facilities and highly regarded coaches aren't all that is needed to produce top 100 players, despite the thinking of our(hopefully)soon to be redundant managers and directors. Too much harking on about improvement has occurred in the last 4 years and non of it on the mens side has been evident. Time for them to go.
    Regarding LLoyd's position, I'm cautious to say he should resign, as it really seems to be the players' own fault. Though the captain could maybe be more enthusiastic or inspiring from the side line, he does come across well endeared by the players and does command respect through his tennis past.
    Our doubles guys seem to be doing well, Fleming and Skupski make a good team, and cleary have had some good results, as will Hutchins and Jamie Murray as they progress.
    Our singles team on the other hand (obviously bar Murray), are simply not good enough, and are unlikely to ever be. Ward looks to give his all, but his one dimentional game just won't cut it. Likewise, Evans, who seems to be lauded with praise too often for my liking, has no presence on court and no weapons. He relies on his average movement too much and his floaty backhand slice that won't penetrate. His height and vulnerability on serve mean he's never fully in control of a set, even if leading. Both players seem to lack the mental strength and athleticism that so often betrays British players, something that HAS to be fixed within the system. They are clearly of a good level and have maxed out their talent, but will just never breach the gap above the 200 rank. Am interested to see Baker play another live rubber, think he has potential and much more grit than any other of our second singles players (Eaton perhaps does too).
    For now though, lets hope somehow Murray can drag us out of our dire circumstances, though I'd lose no respect for him if he decided not too!

  • Comment number 18.

    #10,#11 Yes, if the money the LTA presides over was instead used to create cheaper access to the sport, then there might be some difference.
    One week's tennis for my son: £720 annual club fee, £20/week group training fee (2 sessions), £20 coach fee (+£13 court fee), £10 match (tournament) fee = £77/week
    One weeks football for my son: £25 annual club fee, 2x£1 training fee, NO coaching fee, £2 match subs = £4.50/week
    In this current financial climate, it's a no-brainer - The football authorities clearly do a better job of subsidising the fresh blood coming into the sport.

  • Comment number 19.

    I have just read an interview with David Lloyd on the BBC site where he argues that Draper should go now.

    From what I can remember, the LTA fund David Lloyd Centres to deliver performance programmes aimed at producing the next big hopes.

    Where are all these players he should be producing and does anyone know how much David Lloyd was given by the LTA?

    Lots of people jump on the bandwagon to slate the LTA but when roger Draper started in his role his philosophy was to support the people and programmes that would make the biggest difference and David Lloyd is one of those agencies. Shouldn't Lloyd be taking some of the rap for the failure rather than the LTA?

  • Comment number 20.

    I think there needs to be greater technical analysis into how this defeat occurred. The players' tactics need to come under scrutiny. Not an aspect of tennis that gets much exposure through the British media.

    I'm disappointed that in the final rubber Dan Evans was unable to alter his game-plan to exert more consistent pressure on his younger and less experienced opponent. Surely both the captain and the coach should have been well prepared in advance to advise Dan on tuning his tactics throughout the match according to how it was progressing? In comparison to his opponent, Dan did not look comfortable staying back on the fast surface.

    I'd be interested to see the detailed match stats, i.e. winners/errors/bp's/etc. (for each of the rubbers), as they would probably also help explain how Grigelis was able to win. Does anyone know if these are published anywhere?

  • Comment number 21.

    Colin Fleming is a far better match player than Evans, he plays like a junior and will never make it. Lloyd has written Bogdanovic off as a bottler- he is our number two and we don't have the depth to do this. Why is he ranked about 100 places above the number 3? Play him. Also if Jamie Baker was fit and played we would have won the tie he is better than either Ward or Evans. Bad luck and bad decisions.

  • Comment number 22.

    The comments here that tennis is too expensive at grass roots level is just wrong. Club membership for juniors is actually not that expensive. We pay £80 up here in the Midlands. This is not a poncy southern or London racket/country club or a David Lloyd. We just have a good new clubhouse and 5 excellent quality courts. The problem in the UK is coaches. The system is poor. My lad has played County level for a number of years and yet his coaches have never once watched him play in a competitive match/tournament. Why? Because they will not do it unless they are being paid for it. Coaches in this country push those whose parents are going to continue paying them to coach their kids.

  • Comment number 23.

    The budget thing is an interesting one. Is it hunger and belief that ultimately makes a winner? Money is a by product. The problem with the UK is that we are over protective and squash the hunger and real passion for success, (prob cos losing is sugar coated with taking part!). the L.T.A have no other option that slinging cash at it. Maybe if winning actually mattered to people we wouldn't need to fund it. Culture needs changing across the board and the likely hood of this is zero. So...better put in some mini red players against the moldovans!

  • Comment number 24.

    The Board of the LTA should be ashamed. Roger Draper is constantly giving out the usual 'spin'. It just isn't happening in British Tennis. I look at all my local clubs and parks. Many are ailing and in decay. People are becoming more and more disillusioned and discouraged by the LTA. Draper says that success in the men's game will take time to evolve. Look at the facts. In the 2009 US Open GB didn't get one acceptance into the boys under 18 singles, a draw of 128. In the 2010 Australian Open, we had three boys, one of whom trains only in Spain. Only one of the three advanced past the 1st round and he promptly lost in the 3rd round. That says it all - BELIEVE ME, THERE ARE NO PLAYERS EMERGING. The LTA Board and Draper are frittering away the money that belongs to all the club members under the constitutional rules. They must be stopped, and soon! The myopic approach, ther lies and spin must all end! The best thing would be for the 2,500 clubs in Britain to all disaffiliate from the LTA as a show of disapproval. Each club adult member pays £10 per annum to the LTA. Some clubs have to hand over thousands to the LTA. For what?

  • Comment number 25.

    When will the arrogant, comfortable shambles finally be admitted and tennis in the UK start to move into the 21st century?! Even cricket, for so long a bastion of outmoded, slow moving, football-criticising sloths, has created 20/20 and is finally pulling the crowds in.

    If one person in tennis (media as well as the LTA) actually noticed a few key things - i.e. that Wimbledon - always talked up as a great incentive for kids to get into tennis - is in London, and London is NOT the whole of the UK, and that it only lasts 2 weeks - progress could perhaps be made.

    We will never produce enough players to be a credible world force until kids see tennis as an alternative to football, rugby & now once more, cricket. To do that there has to be a tennis culture at the local and regional level - an accessible, fun and tribal competition that will grip people, and make kids go away and copy what they've seen the same way they do after a trip to an Old Trafford, Ibrox or Headingley.

    We need a shortened form of the game in an inter-city league structure, played at convenient times for schoolkids (i.e. like 20/20 cricket). Initially populated by a few foreign players to draw interest (i.e. IPL style) it can also be a breeding ground for future players over time.

    Changing the director of the LTA or the David Cup captain WILL NOT change the situation in British tennis. When will someone, somewhere, show some imagination and connect local communities to the game of tennis?

  • Comment number 26.

    Sorry to make the same point again, but 'Supersmude' repeated the myth. The underperformance of LTA-produced players has nothing to do with hunger, it's to do with the mis-management of funding (posts 18 and 14 elaborate on current issues), and to question the very attitude of those who play the sport is a joke.

    If attitude is genuinely at fault, it's not a class issue, but a development issue, and that is the responsibility of the LTA. To build on post 14, if players are identified at 11, and then funded and protected until 18 (with little exposure against other potentially world-class youngsters), then a great proportion of players coming through will be seen as having an attitude problem. A number will be tarred as simply being happy to be a professional tennis player (Bogdanovic being the most obvious example).

    The organising body have the responsibility to coach the players physically, technically and psychologically, and the current funding and development structure fails in at least one of these areas.

    I'd also like to see the evidence that suggests tennis is anything less of a middle class sport in Eastern Europe. I've heard a similar argument made of Argentina, and several of their ranking mens players come from privileged backgrounds, and have been coached by the same man (Marcelo Gonzalez) in the same town (Tandil).

    Indeed, with far less central funding available, one would assume the entire Lithuanian Davis Cup team come from privileged backgrounds - perhaps more so than our own team. It is only British coaching, rather than some kind of innate 'hunger' (based on the notion of perceived social class), that can be failing within our structure.

  • Comment number 27.

    The issue about the number of players coming through the system is not the issue. The question here is why are British players failing to beat players who they are supposed to be better than if you use their ranking.
    Is Lloyd not getting the best out of them? or Are they wilting under the pressure of a nation that only happily lambast them for their failures.
    Maybe as a nation we need to re-evaluate the pressures that we put on our sports people cos is clearly not working.

  • Comment number 28.

    When I moved into my present area there were 2 tennis courts in our local park. They haven't been played on for several years, grass is growing out of the clay, the surrounding fence is collapsing and the lines haven't been marked let alone a net provided. Why doesn't the LTA pay a bunch of trainee PE teachers over the summer to run taster sessions on such courts over the summer holidays?
    How about encouraging tennis at school - there used to be hard courts built for school use as well as seasonal grass courts. I don't see them today. I played tennis at school (very, very badly) but at least I was introduced to the basics which is more than many of today's children get.

  • Comment number 29.

    Let me quote one of the earlier comments:
    "3. At 4:46pm on 08 Mar 2010, Subterranean wrote:
    It's the same old story. Professional tennis is played in England mainly by people from pampered middle class backgrounds.

    They don't have the mental strength to cope with pressure situations, even though they might have the nicest rackets and the best facilities. They don't have the desire to prove themselves and make a name. Daddy has already got the Bentley parked in the garage.

    There's no fight or desire, and then people wonder why they can't beat hungry and aggressive Eastern Europeans or South Americans who dream of earning money, being famous sports stars and making a name for themselves."

    That's exactly what's wrong with this country. I'm from Lithuania myself (don't worry I'm not taking over your jobs - I was asked by the British company to come over, because they were struggling finding local people with skills they needed) I'm almost British now, and I LOVE this country. The only reason I'm not changing my passport is that I could go back when I'm ill, because NHS is worse than tennis :) There are money here, but there's no passion in life. And that's sad

  • Comment number 30.

    I am trying to understand something.

    You take up tennis as a career, with what goal in life ?

    To be No1, to win a slam and be the best and beat the best ?

    If you can't get into the top 100 with the best facilities/coaching available, why are you still a tennis player ?

    Get out and get another job.

    But, are you being provided with the best facilities/coaches ? are you getting the right kind of support/training ? money does not always buy the best if its mismanaged.

    And that my friends is the crux of the problem. Money being thrown around like its going out of fashion, players thinking they don't have to improve beyond mediocrity because they get funded anyway, so no commitment to hard work and no, seemingly, real structure of work ethic at the LTA academies. Coaches who seem to be on paid holiday all the time, as if they are some kind of Royal cousin to the Queen and get treated as such, and a grass roots plan that hasn't, apparently, made it out of the filing cabinet yet.

    All this points to a break down of the system that should be giving us some kind of return for all the hard dosh we give to Wimbledon year after year. We have just two players (one of which was, thankfully, kept away from the clutches of the LTA) who can boast a Wimbledon appearance for the last, god knows how many years, and that is not good enough.

    Draper out, Lloyd out.

    With Draper gone, all his cronies would have to go too, get some young blood in, with a team of modern thinking bods who know what tennis actually is. Find the root of the problems, sort them out and get the ball rolling to the kids out there who have not had the chance to try tennis as a sport and see if the like it.

    Build all weather courts, build domes, whatever, just get the kids to pick up a racquet, for free and try it out, how will we ever know who the next Murray/Nadal/Federer is going to be if there is no chance for them to take it up in the first place.

  • Comment number 31.

    At the end of the day, lets face it - we're a nation who like to see ourselves at the top end of sports when really we're struggling to compete. The club system in this country is killing the development of players, as only kids from rich (mainly white), upper-middle-class homes can afford REGULAR use of courts and access to coaching. The word regular is the operative word here - the LTA makes a big fuss about developing grass roots, but the game is still just as inaccessible as 5 years ago. They'd be much better off spending their money by donating tennis courts to schools and community leisure centres around the country, than building empty warehouses where wannabe-world beaters can enjoy playing away from the masses (Roehampton).

    Shame on the LTA, shame on Lloyd for appalling player-management and motivational techniques, and shame on the club owners for charging too much and nkeeping british tenniis firmly in the mire.

  • Comment number 32.

    Guys, in my country Lithuania we have three tennis courts, you have to pay to access it and allowed to play only on specific timetable. Here in London on other hand you have hundreds and I mean hundreds of tennis courts FREE to play ANY time!!! and Wimblendon plus if you thing about it the pool of people in this country 60 mill and in Lithuania 3 mill, also don't forget to add the budget of £30 mill in UK and £0.10 mill in Lithuania, then the question is: how on earth did you manage to loose????????????????

  • Comment number 33.

    Playing away from home is a factor in our defeat.

    But British tennis is not so great, as has clearly been identified by this. Having been "amongst the system" for the past few years I can see that there's not enough encouragement from schools and colleges to get out there on the tennis courts. I think the internet and television has undoudtedly had an impact and youth's need to push themselves too.

    There is no point in getting rid of Draper if someone just like him will fill his place. But the sooner he goes the better.

    Embarrassing is definitely a kind word.

  • Comment number 34.

    Draper should go, but don't let the Little Big Man David Lloyd anywhere near for goodness sake. Much as it hurts, I think we need a fresh approach at the top and should (perhaps for 3-4 years) look abroad - hard for the establishment LTA to do though!

  • Comment number 35.

    Googleboxben; I completely agree with you, what British tennis needs is a fresh face, a new mindset and new ideas.

    Draper should undoubtedly go, he turned up at the LTA in 2006 and went through the existing set-up like a knife through hot butter giving it the big "I am" about how the LTA was going to be purely performance focussed from then on (getting rid of felgate within about a week). Bar Murray who had to virtually be bribed back into the system with the offer of free performance coaching for brother Jamie there has been no-one new appear as most of the others, Mel South, Boggo, Keothavong etc. were already in the system.

    Get rid of Bruce Phillips too (LTA communications director) behind the scenes it seems he has more power than perhaps someone in that role should do - hard to blow your nose without his say-so...

  • Comment number 36.

    Mismanagement of funding, mismanagement and lack of awareness of talent, cost of joining a tennis club, cost of hiring an indoor court (if you have access to one). When i played club and county league tennis in Berkshire/Hampshire in the mid 90's, under 18's were only allowed to play one night a week at my club. The costs of joining were high, we had grass courts and clay courts and was very nice, but the attitude of some was awful, more concerned with the etiquette than actual playing ability. The best under 18 player, actually gave up tennis to play football for his local team, he was a nice kid, had attitude and commitment, but the structure of the club and the league didnt appeal to him. He could afford to play as his father was a well paid engineer. Here in Swansea where i now live the council are closing the indoor tennis centre (3 indoor and 6 outdoor courts), to save £80,000 a year!! these are the only indoor courts for 40 miles either side of Swansea. My wife is french, the tiny village of Nonant Le Pin where her parents live has a population of around 600 people and an indoor tennis court. Sums it up

  • Comment number 37.

    For comment#22-Tennis at grassroots level is not that expensive-you're RIGHT.BUT!if your son or daughter wants to play on the world junior stage or even at the top level in this country -as he will have to if he intends to be a world class player-THEN it is EXPENSIVE....Travelling to 3 tournaments in Florida in December OR/AND to Europe for the rest of the year-travelling all over the UK for Grade 3 and Grade 2 tournaments-5 or more racquets,more coaching,physio,time off school so hiring tutors,the list goes on and on....Look at the top 10 boys in each age group and they have all played in tournaments all over the UK and Europe.If you go with your child to a tournament like the Nationals-that is a week off work.Multiply that by 10 or 12 of the week long tournaments during the and you soon see why people are remortgaging their houses to come up with the £10-£15K you need to spend.Imagine if you have 3 kids who play!If he or she makes it into the top 5-then you get £5K and some travel assistance-top 25 and you get £1500.....top 50-nothing...

  • Comment number 38.

    Here's a question. Where was Andy Murray in his country's hour of need? Ah, that's right: shirking his responsibilities.

    Shameful behaviour from him.

  • Comment number 39.

    Tennis could be helped enormously by just having tennis walls (i.e. a wall you can hit a tennis ball against) in public parks and sports areas a bit like there are goal posts.
    Tennis purists might baulk, but it allows you to practice on your own, parents can stand behind their kids to pick up the ball if they miss, and you could invent a game that allows kids to play in 1s, 2s, 3s, or however many are present.
    When the kids are really into they can migrate to a proper tennis court.

  • Comment number 40.

    The problem with Tennis is very clear to me.

    Indoor football
    - up to 10 players on the court
    - £3.00 per player
    - all parents can afford this, even well poor people

    Tennis
    - takes same amount of room as football
    - 2 players
    - £15.00 per player
    - that is 5 times less players!!!! (10 / 2 = 5!)

    No well poor people and that can afford £15.00!!! to send their child to play tennis for an hour!! Also everyone wants to play football okay, so we don't want 2 little rich kids stealing our indoor football pitch okay?? Be sure to know me and my 9 m8s will proper sort out those 2 rich kids for stealing the pitch!

    Also, a sports centre ain't gonna lower the price coz why should they when evereyone hates tennis coz its well boring!

    THE SOLUTION
    ============

    Okay so now I convinced you of why tennis doomed. Is that the end of the story??/ No it certainly isn't, coz I have the solution.

    WHAT IS IT???
    =============

    Smaller courts!!! We can fit 10 players like with football, if we make the court much smaller! Maybe even used a raised pitch, with a smaller net. Obviously the bats would need to be smaller and that!!! So imagine a small table which you can fit 10 or more in a sports hall okay? And even as many as 20 players!!! (10 tables, 2 players per table = 10 * 2 = 20 PLAYERS!!). We could get £3.00 per player still, that is £60.00!!!! TWICE amount of football!!

    This is my submission for job entry to take over LTA. Please contact me ASAP to discuss salary and benefits I need a lot of money okay!!

  • Comment number 41.

    I'm so prode that Lithuanian won. Is the small country but powerful...
    Good luck to England in Turkey and Lithuanian in Irkand

  • Comment number 42.

    The £millions are, clearly, going to the wrong places.
    40 years ago in my home town (Crawley) I had 25 well maintained public (and free) tennis courts to choose from, and most were full all summer. Today there are about 7 that I know of, becoming increasingly dilapidated and usually only full during Wimbledon fortnight.
    The game seems to have become the preserve of the rich that it's critics always professed it to be (and Google maps' view of expensive house gardens seems to reinforce that view).
    Very sad. I'd prefer to see the £millions being used to reverse that trend by promoting grass roots tennis, through more and better public courts and tennis in schools.

  • Comment number 43.

    Why is nobody blaming the players?

    Again, our players lack the temperament to play under any kind of pressure. The reason Boggo wasn't picked is because he is the king of the bottlers! He would've crumbled just as Evans did over the 3 days....

  • Comment number 44.

    'The game seems to have become the preserve of the rich that it's critics always professed it to be (and Google maps' view of expensive house gardens seems to reinforce that view).'

    I'm sure Google maps' would also show that plenty of houses have swimming pools. This by know means reinforces the idea that swimming is a preserve for the rich.

  • Comment number 45.

    My partners son is in the US at a tennis academy trying to improve his game. If he had stayed in the UK he would have had to undertake a 3 hour round trip (by car so parent buy-in needed) to obtain half decent coaching for 2 hours, and then complete his homework whilst travelling. With the length of the school day this is not condusive to developing a sport at a decent level, when your day starts at 8.30 and finishes at 10pm.
    The US tennis academy sends their pupils to the local school, (hours 8 to 1 and then he practices for 4 hours in the afternoon, has time for homework in the evening and an hour to wind down and relax. So 2 hours more practice a day, arguably better coaching,education doesn't suffer, surrounded by better quality players from around the world and a shorter overall day.
    This doesn't come cheap (£30k a year) and my partner is heavily in debt as a result. Would her son have gone if there were local facilities with good coaches? No, but there aren't and until there are we won't have any depth in the game.

  • Comment number 46.

    Re: Jordan D (38).

    I disagree. Murray not playing was the best thing that could have happened to British tennis. Rather than masking the true state of our game by taking a couple of easy points he has challenged all the other mediocre British players to step up and forced everyone to take an honest look at the situation. We need solutions for the long term not just for now. Rather than shirking his responsibilities, he has almost single handedly focussed our attention on discovering the real underlying issues.

  • Comment number 47.

    Further to my earlier post, I've had a go at coming up with some rules for a game to make tennis more accessible. See http://codalogic.com/wall-tennis.pdf . (BBC editor: Feel free to copy it to another site.)

  • Comment number 48.

    Our cricket team is full of South Africans. Our football Premier League is made up of players from abroad. It is not just tennis. We are a third rate nation when it comes to sport. We all lack the passion required to make the difference. Anbody can qualify to become a coach and teach sport, but very few people do. Most major sports coaches in this country come from abroad. We will all sit and moan about it, but do nothing.

  • Comment number 49.

    What a shambles. We have a system where players are rewarded for mediocrity, and the establishment are immune from the consequences.

    Scrap the LTA board & Senior management, put in place people who are genuinely adept at organising grass-roots to world class level sport.

    Fund players with only the highest potential, and fund them a bare minimum, with more based on performance or ranking.

    Stop giving the same old no-hopers wild cards at Wimbledon. How many chances do people like Bogdanovic need? They should be given to the promising players under 21. Over 21, then you have to earn your place on merit.

    For too long British players have trundled along knowing that they'll get well paid and a spot at Wimbledon just as long as they're in the Top300.

    A country with the budget and following that we have in the UK should have about 10 inside the Top100, 5 in the Top50 and two in the Top10.

    This needs a proper shake up and I for one don't want part of my club membership to go to the LTA unless this is changed.

  • Comment number 50.

    Re: Jordan D (38).
    I agree with Radar_Rob (46)

  • Comment number 51.

    If Judy Murray has been so successful at producing tennis players in her sons, and given that she's taking a back seat in Andy's development now: why not offer her the position? She'd be at least as qualified as Draper, and has got a track record that he doesn't.

  • Comment number 52.

    It's not all doom and gloom. Let's look on the bright side: Tim Henman's former practice base, the Slough Indoor Tennis Centre, has been closed in favour of a bowling alley serving alcohol and hamburgers.

    I don't know the specifics of Alex Bogdanovic's relationship with John Lloyd, but I believe his commitment wasn't exactly unfaultering, and I think any non committal attitude should be stamped on. If this means of course that we end up with no-one with the solid belief and ambition to become top class then so be it. I don't think we understand what it takes. Teenagers now are more concerned about making sure Facebook is updated with their global tennis schedule than winning the actual matches.

    It's not Lloyd's fault, and I don't think anyone else could do any better, most of all Rusedski.

  • Comment number 53.

    The talent pool in British tennis is tiny,probably 50 children in any year group with potential to be tennis players and the costs to parents very high, around £5000 ayear when my son was 9, only a very narrow section of society can participate when costs are at this level. In contrast football is inexpensive clubs pick up and fund the most talented but even then only a tiny handful ever make it to the Premier League.

  • Comment number 54.

    If you want to shake up the way the LTA and British tennis is being run then why not put John McEnroe in charge for a while. I'm sure he'll get rid of the rubbish!!

  • Comment number 55.

    Why not just get rid of Davis Cup? It's boring. Just like Olympics tennis. Tennis is a sport for individuals. If you want nations competing at tennis then try something light like the Hopman Cup, or a shortened format played over a week, for one week a year (a World Cup). Any other ideas?

  • Comment number 56.

    Davis cup team of Murray, Henman and Rusedski. Lets see the Turks shaking with fear as they have to face those three!!

  • Comment number 57.

    I agree with anotherwoodenidea. The idea that other countries elite tennis players are street kids used to scrapping it out is ludicrous. As he mentioned, you can be sure that most if not all Argentinian players come from comfortable backgrounds and I would challenge anyone to show me a country where this is not the case. The Williams sisters are an anomaly, lucky freaks of nature like Federer who have got an almost irrepressible talent. No, I have the theory that we are so flooded with football coverage (including endless tittle tattle during the increasingly brief off season) that kids don't even have the ambition to be world class tennis players. Plus, they're no mugs...they know tennis requires more dedication than almost any sport. Four hours per day grooving a particular shot? A shattering 5 set match followed by another two days later? No thank you! I'd be interested to see how much practice footballers do(and is it mind numbing)and how many miles they run in a year. No, tennis is hard work and for all that effort you receive a fraction of the footballers' easy money and little celebrity status. No, I think we've dug ourselves too deep a cultural hole to pull ourselves out of.
    One final chilling thought....IF Murray doesn't win a grand slam, at the rate we turn out world class players, we could be looking at a hundred year drought. So come on Andy, you're all we've got.

  • Comment number 58.

    One additional comment. I don't blame Ward and Evans, or even Bogdanovich. They're perfectly acceptable numbers 7,10 and perhaps 15 for the country. Where are the numbers two to six sitting inside the top hundred? As for early comments about Murray ratting on his commitment. Why should he continue to paper over the cracks in a largely futile effort to drag British tennis up and running unnecessary injury risks for his own future?

  • Comment number 59.

    Lithuania on a budget of 90,000 a year and a team of teenagers with only 1 in the top 500 beat GB with a budget of goodness knows how man millions and more than 1 player in the top 500 by 3-2. Both the players and the LTA need to have a long hard look at themselves.

  • Comment number 60.

    Why on earth does the british mens team reflect the state of all of tennis in the UK??? The LTA certainly isn't perfect, but if they implemented new strategies when Draper came in 4 years ago, talent and world ranked players have got to develop from the very beginning upwards (i.e.6/7yr olds).

    So surely the state of British tennis now, will probably only begin to show in the davis cup in 10-12yrs time (i.e. 2016, not 2010!!), when these players get to an age where they might play in the Davis Cup. There is no way that players can get to the top 100 simply with money if they don't have the ability in the first place!

  • Comment number 61.

    The Britons should not do tennis or anything involving "pressure". We keep arguing how much pressure our children are "suffering" in school as they take some examinations and we have to take the result of it.



  • Comment number 62.

    Like any business you do unfortunately have to start at the top, they need the right person who is empowered to make changes- not a yes man keeping a committee happy. David Lloyd is a proven businessman, he has achieved more in sport and in business than anyone currently at LTA and if the powers that be were not so petrified that he would oust every single one of them they would consider him the perfect candidate, he would take the sport by the scruff of the neck and make it happen...but it wont happen because everybody likes the salaries they have and regardless of what's best for the sport wont put their own necks on the line

  • Comment number 63.

    we could get rid of lloyd and draper, but it wont make a blind bit of difference, the players arnt going to improve who ever leads them!

    they are just not good enough, and have no bottle. you could have the best captain in the world and we would still loose. pretty sure lloyd would fare better if he had a handful of top 50 players to choose from but he doesnt. who on earth would take on the role..

    also agree with earlier comment, if your a player and you simply cant get into the top 100 give up and get another job.

    atleast the british women are showing more commitment and effort, i have more time for them. its down to the individual players simple as that.

  • Comment number 64.

    Mr Overend, and all the comments on the tennis Ken Skupski is a working class boy, born in Toxteth Liverpool. His Mother has been cleaning a local pub for 25 years to make some money for his tennis. It is a miracle that he plays tennis. Tennis is a very difficult game to play and to get to the top requires talent and sacrifice.Perhaps local businesses could sponsor talent. Certain section of society like to thrive on misery, failure and tragedy. Are we a nation of knockers? does it sell more papers than success. A journalist told me his editor says 'there are 3 sports, football, football, football'
    A miracle we have player that have won ATP tournaments in the past 12 months, Skupski/Fleming won 2 ATP tournament but little coverage of this was mentioned in the media

  • Comment number 65.

    I work at the LTA and know that many of the senior staff recieve bonuses year after year while many of the staff are made redundent as part of ongoing restructuring processes. The money is being wasted on the same old players. Sack John Lloyd? Why? The players are losing the games not John - at least he did something on the tennis circuit. He has nothing to choose from. Get rid of the LTA hieracy as a whole - they do nothing yet all drive nice cars to work. Put the money into grass roots and inner city programmes. There are hardly any non whites at LTA hq because they simply do not want ethnic minorities taking over and doing well. Roger - sorry mate but it is time to go - you are part of the problem with you white teeth and shiny suits - not part of the soultion

  • Comment number 66.

    I bet AEGEON are happy with their sponsorship of British Tennis - not! Or maybe a company that deals with insuring high risk is a good partnership actually

  • Comment number 67.

    arnold 102 makes a point that encapsulates the "gated fence" middle class attitude that eminates from the LTA. I work at the LTA and can tell everyone that 3 out of 4 weeks a month the courts at Roehampton are like ghost towns. I have mentioned to the senior staff on many occasions that we should open the site up to local schools, and although they run a limited programme, if a child turned up and wanted to play, they would have to jump over a 10ft fence just to get in. Sad really but the LTA do not want any old oik on their courts - that is the truth. They cannot handle talented kids from poor or ethnic backgrounds who do not understand the middle class etiquttes, taking over tennis in the UK

    there should be flashmob that turn up at the LTA on the weekend demanding to play - that would make them sweat as they would have to go out and find people to use the courts.

    New tennis centre + empty courts = no progress

  • Comment number 68.

    LTA should look at GB sailing and cycling as models of 'elite' sports which can be successful on the world stage.

  • Comment number 69.

  • Comment number 70.

    I was one of the handful of british fans (i'd say 70) that made the effort to go to Vilnius for this tie. Once we had lost 'our lions' snuck off with their tails between their legs and didn't say a word of thanks to us. nothing, nada, zip. The Lithuanians on the other hand were gracious winners, their coach came over to commiserate us and Gregalis even came over to our table at the bar afterwards to say a few words.

    British tennis is in a crisis, it has been for the last 20 years. A monopoly which is not accountable to anybody. Something needs to be done from outside the organistion to get this sorted. As one of the blogs above quite rightly points out however, these executives aren't going to fall on their swords and give up their lucrative salries. I met almost as many LTA officials as fans last weekend which gives you an idea of the money being wasted....

    You could attach targets to the funding whereby the LTA would recieve a cut in funds for lack of achievement however who would create the targets and who decides how much money they need? The LTA. This has to stop.....even if Draper goes they will find someone else to do exactly the same job. It's the system that needs to change otherwise give it 10 years and once Murray has retired we'll be considered a nation of doubles players.

  • Comment number 71.

    I live in a small town outside London. I have 2 sport made boys, however Tennis has a massive probelm. I guess 500+ boys & girls play football every week in the area, ~200 Rugby, ~150 cricket, 50 Hockey, a handful of competetive Swimmers.......Tennis none that we know of at present. I have heard of 2 friends of friends that play!!!. The Tennis club in the town is by far the richest sports club in the area with very good facilities and both boys go to school, in another town, near an indoor Tennis sports centre. Both our local park and local comprehenive school have tennis courts unsed for the vast majority of the year. Why? I have no idea but this is the crux of the problem.

  • Comment number 72.

    We don't produce decent tennis players because, as a nation, we don't really like the sport or play it that much. Most people in this country probably think the tennis season starts at the French open, incorporates Queens and climaxes with Wimbledon (all though a few adventurous souls probably stretch to Flushing Meadow)

    All this talk about the middle classes suppressing the sports success is just tosh. The middle classes are ruthless, they bankrupt themselves to send their kids to private schools and dominate our business and finance elites, if they see a return on something - they'll get it. No, again, we just don't dig on tennis. Never mind all this stuff about how much countries spend on a sport its really a question of numbers. I bet more people play tennis seriously in Lithuania than here and don't forget as a sporting nation we play every sport going, everyone is competing for participants.

    If we could do an 'exchange visit' with France's tennis playing public then our clubs would bustle, more would open and the public courts would be full and expanding. The reason our clubs so often seem to be snobby middle class social clubs is because they are backwaters in comparison. It is the result of tennis lowly status, not the cause. They seem stagnant because tennis isn't a mass sport here, not the other way round. If the nation caught tennis fever these so called middle class couldn't stop people playing, not if they really wanted to, we'd just build our own clubs.

    Maybe if we get a British winner with Andy Murray, or the game is marketed better it could reach a bigger audience. Perhaps a BBC version of match of the day for tennis, more tournaments on terrestrial TV. When as many people play tennis as Spain, Argentina or France, then we will stack the top 100 with 5 or 6 players.

  • Comment number 73.

    "A lot of good work going on in clubs"

    Are you kidding? I belong top a well known Surrey Club and the adult members cant wait to see the Junior sessions finish so they can get on with their "Social G&T Doubles". They complain about them having too much court time and the noise they make.

    At grass roots level in a tennis club there is little desire by anyone to improve, practice and train. The only game that seems to matter is Doubles. Even a school level double is the norm. Club team matches are always doubles. Singles is an occasional event. Compare this to France or Spain.

    I have competed to a mediocre level both in Tennis and Cycling in this country. I can tell you that they are a world apart. I know one doesn't require a great deal of skill but join a cycling and you will soon realise how much it is treated as a sport.

    Tennis at club level is mostly seen as a pastime not a sport. Our training methods are not right. In Spain and France there is huge emphasis on getting your technique right and hitting "baskets" contunually. Having slow courts means that you develop proper shots. Our club cant wait for the grass season (6 months long!). Why has the LTA got "superfast" concrete courts at their HQ in Roehampton? It's a nonsense. No wonder Andy Murray is the only one to develop a world class game, he went to Spain whilst his brother stayed here. Point proven I think.

  • Comment number 74.

    Its time to close the LTA down and completely start again. Tennis is not growing in this country despite the massive money available to it. The vast majority of the public still believe tennis is an elitist sport for the middle classes.

    Tennis is not played in the vast majority of schools, the number of tennis clubs has halved in the last 10 years and park courts lay empty most of the time.

    Tennis is an easy game to play and learn if taught correctly and there are only a few who teach this way in this country.

  • Comment number 75.

    I agree partially with "guideontheside", the LTA is a stumbling collection, too long in the job, same old faces in a unique Club, same teachings, no individual enterprise to spur our tennis forward. I wrote in the magazine TENNIS some years ago that the LTA jobs should, have a 3 year period after which they can apply for their job along with others, it becomes competitive like industry. This will give new blood a chance, shake off the old cobwebs and promote a very active LTA, unshackled by age old doctrine and stuffiness. I look forward to the day these changes happen.

  • Comment number 76.

    British tennis will not go beyond the level of Tim Henman and Andy Murray as long as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are physically and mentally fit to play in any grand slam; Andy Murray is already following in the footsteps of Tim Henman and may end up not winning a grand slam. I have a detailed knowledge of what is wrong with British tennis but i will keep this to myself for now; a clue- the coaching methods are totally and completely flawed. Thomas.

  • Comment number 77.

    I am an LTA coach at a small community club with a surrounding population of about 10,000.

    Annual membership Adults £60
    Juniors £30

    Group lessons £3 members £4 non members. Individual lessons £7.00 per hour. Some lessons carried out for free.

    We struggle with about 70 members. Its not the expense the population just aren't interested in tennis.

  • Comment number 78.

    The LTA grass routes programme has not had the desired effect in local smaller clubs where membership is relatively cheap. The problem all clubs have is Junior League tennis matches take place generally on Saturday mornings hence competing with junior players football/cricket team fixtures. Additionally football fixtures are no longer confined to a short season. Youngsters who like sports are usually multi-sport talented and will choose a team sport, playing with a large group of friends, like football. It would be difficult to get court time at most clubs on weekday nights for junior fixtures, compounding the problem. Locally, with the LTA coaching input in the schools, the effect has been that the more talented juniors are "cherry picked" by the coach to join the club where he is based leaving the smaller clubs with fewer junior members. Unless some of these basic problems, which have always exsisted, have been addressed tennis will not progress. Junior schools have football, netball, cricket, swimming, chess teams but I am unaware of any junior state schools who field a tennis team or any tennis competitions involving junior schools. How many junior school, or indeed secondary school, PE teachers are qualified tennis coaches?

  • Comment number 79.

    Louis wrote:
    "I am an LTA coach
    Group lessons £3 members £4 non members. Individual lessons £7.00 per hour. Some lessons carried out for free"

    Louis, where are you? Can I come? Seriously though, get in the M25 catchment area and individual lessons are £20-£30 per hour. Kids lessons in my club for members are £7 or non memebers £8. Thank god for a local academy that does lessons for £3 but they are a real exception. Perhaps your club is as well.

    Then there are the teaching methods, but that's another rant

  • Comment number 80.

    As others have stated....I am a Qualified LTA Coach and stand by my earlier comments that British Tennis will not progress until the current LTA heirarchy is drastically changed. In brief, too old, too long in the job, devoid of new ideas due to comfortable jobs/salaries. The LTA urgently needs to look at itself and be self discriminating, accept and understand the foregoing comments about too long in the job etc., failing is what they are good at.
    On the issue of public interest in joining tennis clubs, I have much personal proof of the reluctance of schools to include tennis coaching which is where our youngsters should experience tennis at an early age, I have experienced only half-baked efforts by the LTA to promote such, all reported with "spin" that would suit a politician.
    I was advised by a British National Coach to avoid letting the LTA take control of my best proteges. Good advice.

  • Comment number 81.

    Think we should out source training contracts to Spain given Murray's profile.
    Apparently the LTA has NO CLUE.
    I could never play tennis because I could never afford it. Seems things are as true in the 1980's as now. A bunch of self congratulating tea and cucumber sandwich consumers way too subsidised.

  • Comment number 82.

    #11, I totally agree.

    #38, poor comment. Murray has been doing favours for Britain for years now, it's time he's allowed a break. It's not his duty anyways. The LTA have done nothing whatsoever for him, nearly ruined his brother, and produced no good tennis players.

    Why don't you say that Roddick is said to be 'shirking' responsibility? Cus they have other good players. Same goes for Federer, Nadal or Djokovic.

    Seriously, get real, Murray has his own schedule to keep to, he's not going to break his routine at the peak of the world tour to play some mediocre match with teenagers in the 3rd tier of the Davis Cup.

    There has to be a shift in attitude. It's almost as if everything in mens British tennis relies on Murray right now cus everything else is failing horribly.

  • Comment number 83.

    There are cheap places to play all round the country through small clubs and municipal courses. The LTA are doing talent spotting around some schools. However, I don't think that's the problem. The investment is all at a too young age and then at the moment when people really need help, its gets too expensive and there isn't the support. One of my daughter's coaches went through the whole LTA thing, but couldn't afford the tennis academy at the crucial later stages. Also, in our area they picked loads of kids at 5 and 6 for agility and hand eye co-ordination. Big mistake, they were all small dancers! Now if you look at most tennis players now, particularly the women, they are really tall, so what's the point of picking people who will grow to 5 foot 4! They will also have better co-ordination at this age as they aren't growing so fast. No brainer! Many countries look at body types and what they are likely to be good at, but not England.

    Sport could be taught far better generally in all schools. I know someone who was part of a picked bunch of tennis kids and they all dropped out apart from one as they were put off too young or weren't really interested. There should be general sports academies that let kids find out what they want to do and train them generally so they have fun too, then they should put the big money in later when people who really have the drive for that sport need the help. For anyone, if you look at the odds of really succeeding at something like tennis, its not very high compared to the huge amount you would have to invest, so I suspect the majority of people who have and are willing to fork out that huge investment into their kids would go for something with more likely returns.

 

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