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Davis Cup review must not paper over cracks

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Jonathan Overend | 09:31 UK time, Thursday, 18 March 2010

John Lloyd's resignation was no surprise after the humiliating result in Lithuania.

It wasn't necessarily his fault - and he held the respect of the players, some of whom went out of their way to fight his corner - but it was his team.

He was the captain of a wealthy British side which lost to a team of kids from the tennis non-league. He had to go.

But if the Lawn Tennis Association chiefs think that will be the end of the matter, scapegoat identified and slaughtered, they should be mistaken.

John Lloyd with Jamie WardJohn Lloyd with Jamie Ward during the latter's singles defeat on the final day in VIlnius - Photo: Getty

Steven Martens, the LTA Player Director, was asked to "review" events in Vilnius. It was a curious assignment - surely that's part of his job anyway - yet a worthy one if carried out forensically, and with an openness to outside viewpoints.

After a week and a half, we have half a verdict - and a statement of the obvious.

"My initial findings from the review recognise that he [Lloyd] is not to blame for our current lack of depth in men's tennis so I am widening my review to look across men's tennis," he said.

The fall-out from Lithuania has never been about whether John Lloyd is to blame for the state of the game. Of course he isn't. Daft question, so why answer it in the statement?

And then we learn that only now is this "review" being "widened" to look at men's tennis as a whole. In other words, tackling the key issue.

The main focus should be on why men's tennis in Great Britain, at elite performance level beneath Andy Murray, is clearly in a worse state than when the current regime took charge at Roehampton four years ago.

When things are going backwards, as illustrated by the ATP rankings and Davis Cup results (surely the two most tangible indicators), then something has to be addressed other than who the bloke is on the captain's chair.

We must hope more substantial findings lie ahead, otherwise Martens surely will have failed in his task.

But, hang on a moment, isn't he the man in charge of performance - the man who admits to being in charge of men's tennis? So why is he carrying out this review? That's a bit like putting Alastair Campbell in charge of the Iraq inquiry.

Martens, fuelled by a hefty six figure salary plus bonus, has worked hard to bring about change. He has changed funding structures, talent identification networks and coach education. Progress has undoubtedly been made in many areas but not everyone agrees it is for the better.

There is disquiet about the number of Belgian coaches now on the LTA payroll. Martens, a Belgian, has brought them all into British tennis. Will they still be around in 10 years, one wonders?

There is also concern about the rigid structure of mini-tennis age-groups and a perceived lack of flexibility for talented kids.

Livid parents have complained about junior ratings, which saw a significant change made last year without proper communication and meant some kids had effectively been playing the wrong tournaments.

All this comes under Martens' remit. But will his "review" look at these examples of issues which have held back British tennis?

Greg RusedskiGreg Rusedski appears to be the clear favourite to be the next Davis Cup captain

Meanwhile, if a "blameless" John Lloyd has been forced out, then where does that leave Martens or, for that matter, Roger Draper, the LTA chief executive, who said last week that he is "ultimately responsible"?

There appears little evidence of Draper leaving despite vocal calls from critics for him to resign, but the pressure is certainly mounting.

An appearance before an all-party Parliamentary group investigating British tennis will test Draper's nerve more than that deciding set in Vilnius.

All of this makes me depressed. The hard work of hundreds of dedicated tennis folk in Britain is being constantly overlooked by this sorry, never-ending debate and the desire, within some British tennis quarters, to cover backs and paper cracks.

Later this year I will tell stories of those coaches on the frontline, battling against the maelstrom. They deserve publicity for their hard work because they do what they can and we need them.

In the meantime, who next for Davis Cup captain?

Tim Henman doesn't want the job - for now - and Mark Petchey won't work for Draper.

Miles Maclagan is tied to Andy Murray and Paul Annacone has just been told he isn't needed as team coach, let alone captain.

Greg Rusedski, the obvious favourite, would love the job and was sounded out a few weeks ago, but he isn't exactly on Andy Murray's Christmas card list.

One option is Steven Martens himself but a more shrewd appointment would be a British coach with vast experience of working with British players.

I'm not here to start a campaign but we could do a lot worse than someone like Dave Sammel, former coach of ex-British Davis Cup players Barry Cowan and Martin Lee and now a director of the Monte Carlo Tennis Academy.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    What goes around, comes around. the LTA haven't produced a world class player for years - Andy Murray went to Spain, Greg came through the Canadian system & Tim came through the David Lloyd programme at Raines Park.

    While the LTA prescribe to a more and more regimented regime for juniors (Mini Tennis competencies & certificates, set age groups regardles of ability etc) this country will continue to fail at the highest level.

    Tennis is a game, let's start by trying to make it fun for juniors & develop from there!

  • Comment number 2.

    Look, we're not very good at tennis - Davis Cup, realistically, is for the Spains and USAs of this world, while we might beat the odd second rate country, which is fun for a weekend.

    Frankly, i'm amazed Davis cup captain is even a job. How hard can it be? "Andy, what are you up to this weekend? Great, have you seen anyone else good play recently and if so can you call them?". Most of us could do it in our lunch breaks.

    Heartening to see we're considering choosing the guy who, in every BBC comment,'is not on Andy Murray's Christmas card list'.

  • Comment number 3.

    The LTA has to shoulder a large proportion of the blame for the ridiculous situation british tennis finds itself in but I think it also has to be said that aside from Andy Murray our players just aren't good enough, or if they are they do not translate this to results in pressure situations. Having worked in coaching for 4 years I feel the most work needs to be done between after the Mini Tennis stage to ensure that the children with ability and the will to carry on playing do just that.

  • Comment number 4.

    The success of the current davis cup team is surely dependant on the amount of quality players aged 21-30. The Current regime have put plenty of work and steps in place to ensure that in 4/5/6/7 years time there will be plenty of these players aged around 22-23 and perfect for Davis Cup. The current regime cannot be blamed for the failures of previous regimes in not producing any players who are suitable for Davis Cup Having been a top 10 national player in the same age group as andy Murray and James Ward, it is clear that the reason for the recurrent failure in Davis Cup at this moment in time is the lack of players playing the game professionally aged 21/22/23. And this is not The current regimes fault. The key times for players to develop effectively into the mens game are from aged 15-19, If I look at some of the other 'top' juniors from my age group (Who could now potentially be Davis Cup material)it is startling to see how many were lost to the game aged 15-19. This is not Roger Drapers fault! He was not in charge when I and some of my peers were 'lost to the game'. Having been supported slightly by the LTA till aged 16, my funding was Cut and there was really no way back as I had no personal funding to travel to international tournaments etc, so I quit as there was no realistic future without financial support. The two players who are still playing successfully from my Age group, Murray and Ward, both had to train in Spain aged 15 onwards to ensure a succesful transition to the senior game! As far as I can Tell, now from a coaches point of view, the current regime are going some way to ensure that this does not have to happen. There are more players playing the game at younger ages, and fairer distribution of funding to ensure that more players have more chances. And with the national tennis centre, there should be no need to move to spain.
    Good call with Dave Sammell as well, would be a good Davis cup caprain. Although I wouldn't bet against him becoming Andy Murrays Coach at some point in the future.

  • Comment number 5.

    Is our system so different to those of other countries? If so, surely it would be a reasonably simple matter to emulate the talent-developing structure of the more successful tennis nations?

  • Comment number 6.

    In the United Kingdom Tennis IS NOT A SPORT-its a two week social event in the last week of June and first week of july. Until that attitude changes the LTA will never produce any decent players

  • Comment number 7.

    I've thought long and hard about the topic of the British Davis Cup shambles and I still can't really decide who is at fault or what the reasons are for our dismal failings.

    Take Andy Murray for example. When he announced that he wouldn't play against Lithuania the general feeling was that we should have enough without him and that if he did play he would win all his rubbers and paper over the cracks. I empathise with this point. It was seen as a good opportunity for other players to come into the fold. However, the flipside is this : no matter how bad your other players are, Davis Cup is a team competition and so if the World Number 4 happens to hold a British passport isn't it remiss of us not to actually use him!? Baghdatis plays for Cyprus and they don't have much depth either. I don't think it's fair on British tennis for Murray to pick and choose the matches he plays in. He's either in or he isn't, regardless of the opponent.

    The next point is this : don't you think we perhaps expect a little too much of Britain as a nation in the sport of tennis? We are a country obsessed with football. Sports such as rugby union, cricket, tennis etc are not hugely popular with the masses (aside from Wimbledon, the Ashes and 6 Nations time). Add into the mix our poor climate, the growing inactivity levels of our nation in general across all sports, the expense involved in developing tennis players in a challening fiscal climate, the rising prominence of teenage couch potoates, the internet, computer games, and other less expensive pastimes, and you find that as a nation we aren't really into tennis.

    The LTA would counter my argument and give me stats about how many more people are playing the game across all levels. But a huge proportion of these people will be juniors or adults new to the game who enjoy it as a once-per-week hobby with no aspirations to play at a competitive level. You can't blame these people for this lack of ambition, it is their prerogative.

    In summary, I just don't think we want it enough. I don't think we have enough junior players coming through who want to be the best, who will do anything to be the best. But desire isn't enough. You need talent, unique talent, world class talent, and we don't seem to have much of that either. We certainly don't know how to capture and nurture it if it is actually out there.

    Long-term I think you need to find some way to develop an unrivalled hunger amongst young talented players and support them with the coaching techniques required to be the best. I don't think it's much use for Roger Draper to say "but we opened x hundred new clubs last year and had x thousand people playing tennis for the first time."

    If we want to go toe-to-toe with USA, Spain, Australia, Russia etc in the Davis Cup we need to concentrate on the elite.

    I would be interested to hear anyone else's thoughts....

  • Comment number 8.

    Imagine if Fabio Capello was put in charge of a low non league club and given the task of bringing them up to premier. As brilliant as he obviously is he simply wouldnt have the talent to work with and would be faced with an impossible task.

    John Lloyd was a fine captain / a fine player but he had no material to work with once Greg, Tim and now Andy are not available.

    THE PROBLEM IS FAR DEEPER THAN ANY DISCUSSION ABOUT A CAPTAIN. A CAPTAIN NEEDS SOME TALENT TO WORK WITH AND BRING ON.

  • Comment number 9.

    Look if you find a talent which can compete 3 years ahead of normal and they do so happily and successfully without parental forcing, LTA bludgeoning or the like, then you let them do so. Holding back for others is a parental skill, not a child-like one. They'll be normal at other things in life, so it's only in tennis where they need special treatment. They need to be pushing boundaries all the time, within a healthy framework of life. And if it's due to genetic accidents (growing early etc), then acceleration is healthy since they compete against those of similar size, not similar age.......which will make them mentally more realistic, not gaining false belief of ultimate potential.

    Surely, with the smallish numbers of elite players in the system, the key is optimising unique training programmes for each child/youth/young adult? You don't generate unique talent at maturity by working to the norm. Because then you produce the norm. Which isn't good enough at international competition.

    Andy Murray wasn't 'normal', nor was Boris Becker, in terms of their tennis.

    I'm sure you could summarise the key components of a tennis champion into about 10 - 20 aspects. No two champions will be alike, but I bet you'll find that there's a few eliminators in terms of what those components look like which preclude lower standards from reaching the top.

    Now the key for a great coach is going to be understanding, for each player, how those aspects inter-relate and how to make them better in the best way possible.

    I simply don't think that you can box it all into one system. Some players are short, some are tall. Some attack-minded, others defence-minded. Some are suited to grass, others to clay. Some are fast and nimble, others better at anticipation to get in position on time.

    So whilst systems are OK as far as it goes, you need those types as coaches who understand the uses and limitations of systems and enrich them rather than become serfs to them.

    IMHO.

  • Comment number 10.

    Whilst the LTA polices itself, British tennis will remain in the doldrums. The review recently announced is to be conducted by the man in charge of developing British tennis, so what is it going to say? 'after much deliberation, I have decided I have done a poor job and have sacked myself'? John Lloyd has been made the scapegoat for the debacle that is British Tennis. He doesn't organise coaching or development of the players and can only use what ever dross the LTA comes up with for him. He is an honourable man and has been treated shabbily.It doesn't matter who you replace him with, until the LTA is completely overhauled, they will get nowhere.You're better off out of it, John.

  • Comment number 11.

    I don't believe the blame should be dumped upon Roger Draper. The framework being put in place is sound, but a little disjointed. We're still reliant on the freak prodigy coming through, especially at the very young level, and all kids are being compared with how people like Nadal performed as a kid. The LTA need to pick out those kids with a natural talent at a young age and help to develop them, by contributing to funding, advice to parents etc. A lot of kids are likely to be dropping out as they can't get the funding or their parents are making wrong choices due to lack of advice. My two kids are under 10 and cost nearly £400 per month to fund them through squads, tournaments, lessons etc, and we're expected to also try to determine what's best in terms of nutrition and how much coaching they need.

  • Comment number 12.

    The state of tennis is best summed up by describing the situation at Aldershot. Here we have about 12 outdoor courts and four indoor courts that are owned by the Army. They very kindly let people pay to use the outdoor courts, but for the last year due to internal politics the internal courts are only availble to coaches.

    How are kids expected to play tennis al year round if there are no subsidised indoor tennis courts - tennis centres generally charge about £20/ hour.

    Wouldnt the money be better spent building a number of indoor tennis courts that the LTA subsidise and just get kids playing all year round.

  • Comment number 13.

    Draper is bang on.

    He is indeed ultimately responsible - or ultimately irresponsible - and must go.

    Draper out - NOW.

  • Comment number 14.

    An interesting insight into Draper's approach is given by Tony Hawks at:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/tennis/7436488/LTAs-Roger-Draper-was-all-promises-and-no-action-to-spread-free-tennis-around-UK.html

    I agree with the previous comment: Draper out - NOW!

  • Comment number 15.

    My father is a retired tennis coach and he was complaining about similar issues in the LTA 15+ years ago. It seems like a long overdue reorganisation of tennis in warranted.

    I'd get rid of Draper and put someone in charge. How busy is Clive Woodward with his Olympic duties?

  • Comment number 16.

    Draper has to go, he is the man in charge and ultimately accountable. One question no one seems to be answering...if he was available, should John Lloyd have taken Bogdanovic to Lithuania?

  • Comment number 17.

    The review will be an utter waste of time as nothing will change for the permanent good. Draper will have to be physically uplifted from his seat of power to be no doubt replaced by yet another of the "he's a good egg and always willing to play a set at the club when I'm there" blazer brigade who come from a priviliged background but never achieved any success and never undertaken any hard work in a sporting sense.

    Commentators, mostly from the old guard days of wooden rackets and 60mph serves need to get far tougher with their analysis on players performance also. I nearly choken when listening to radio reports of the disasterous day at Wimbledon last year and having to hear rubbish such as "I didn't think Bogo played that badly to be fair" or Annabel Croft droning on in way over the top compliments to the ability of fourth-rate players. And we wonder why nothing ever changes.....

  • Comment number 18.

    2. At 11:26am on 18 Mar 2010, normec wrote:

    Frankly, i'm amazed Davis cup captain is even a job. How hard can it be? "Andy, what are you up to this weekend? Great, have you seen anyone else good play recently and if so can you call them?". Most of us could do it in our lunch breaks.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------

    Normec needs the job. Tennis is an elitist game (name me a working class hero in British tennis) and should be publically funded according to results, not according to the preferences of the allocation committees.

  • Comment number 19.

    Tennis has been in a steady decline for years and years. Will the LTA wake up ever? Don't hold your breath. It wouldn't matter if we had Pete Sampras as Davis Cup captain you can't win Davis Cup matches with people that are not good enough. Why is it that other countries, some of them quite surprising nations, regularly have several players in the top 100 and sometimes the top 50? It can't be the climate, look at Belgium on the womens side. Until tennis stops becoming elitist we will never produce anyone of substance.

    Peter Wood

  • Comment number 20.

    DO NOT get David Lloyd as captain.

    (1) I have personal experience of how he "manages". When a mate of mine and myself drove miles to play on a court at one of his centres just off the M4 (and I mean miles) we found that David himself have taken the court to put on a marketing exhibition.

    Bearing in mind that this court had been booked and quite a long time ago... we didn't even get a phone call. And it is exactly that kind of management problem that British tennis has suffered from for years. No more jobs for the boys.

    (2) He has a business empire to manage - how much of his time do we really think we will get?

    (3) Neither of the Lloyds were ever able to show that they had the extra something that makes winners out of people that can play. On that basis alone... for God's sake, get someone else.

  • Comment number 21.

    There is an issue with mini tennis and the restrictions in the age groups.

    My nephew couldn't play up in mini green because he was too young, yet he was winning all his mini orange matches, how is this helping him progress.

    In my sport, squash, the mini game is aimed at very young to allow those who need it time to develop, but if a child is good enough they progress to the full game, some even using pro balls at county level. It is this sort of structure that is needed, so keep the mini tennis to allow most players the opportunity of enjoying the game, while allowing the best to move up to their ability.

    In education now the buzz word is 'Stage not age' ,allowing students to take exam when they are ready not when they are old enough. The same should be used in tennis.

    Also, more should be done in clubs to integrate good juniors into senior tennis, but I know this issue happens in golf as well so perhaps it is indicative of the type of members there are in these clubs.

  • Comment number 22.

    "Tennis is an elitist game", someone said above.

    And will remin so as long as the LTA insist on wasting their cash on so-called "talent". What produces talent in the first place is the ability to play... somewhere, anywhere.

    Where can the masses play tennis these days? Without queueing for hours?
    Nowhere.

    So where will this "talent" come from? We could have a few potential world-beaters out there who have never been on a tennis court (and in fact we probably do).

    Start putting the funding into developing facilities for grass roots tennis (excuse the pun). When talent emerges it needs little incentive with the money on offer in the game these days. And in any case... it's uip to INDIVIDUALS to follow their own dreams, not the State. I'm happy to see my tax spent elsewhere if having smoeone to cheer on is that expensive. Sorry, but in the scheme of things, it just isn't all that important compared to the other problems each of us faces back in the real world.

  • Comment number 23.

    Is it not statistically proven that the LTA is uterly useless insofar as it hasn't actually produced anyone who's been any good for decades??

    Perhaps it's time they sacked thmeselves, and got some people in who understand the art of putting bat to ball rather than the art of quaffing champagne whilst scoffing large quantities of strawberries and cream at upper-class tea parties?

  • Comment number 24.

    Let's admit it, the davis cup is old hat, the top players don't really want to play in it. Just get rid of it and let's all watch proper tennis.

  • Comment number 25.

    If you want to know why Tennis doesn't succeed in this country, simply walk into any 'normal' school and ask the PE teacher what facilities they have for tennis. Then ask them if they run a Tennis club. Then ask them where the local club is and who runs it and how popular it is.

    90% of the time I'm sure you'll get negative answers to all of the above questions. And that's the problem - at grass routes level, we don't care that much about tennis and we don't fund it because there's a lack of interest.

    I'm sure there are dozens of adults that could have been top players if they'd have had any support and the chance to play tennis in school, which would have got them hooked into the game and then encouraged them to take it up out of school and develop their game.

  • Comment number 26.

    Its an elitest minority sport and I am not loosing sleep over it, It gets to much airtime compared to the number of people who participate in it.

  • Comment number 27.

    And also while i'm at it, I remember John Lloyd about 10 years ago or more on Wimbledon when Tim henman was all the rage, that he was looking to get money into grass roots,opening up long closed old tennis courts where there wasn't even any nets and often a playground for drug users and the like. Look around your city, you tell me how many public tennis courts you se in good condition. This is why all the best players go off to America for their coaching because we just don't have them anymore because all they've been interested is coaching the middle to upper classes at exclusive tennis clubs where the normal, everyday family can't afford. Have you seen how much these coaches cost? A flippin' fortune that's what. If we are to ever have an abundance in top players in this country the government and the top coaches need to work together, not just UK coaches because quite frankly they are not up to scratch anymore, bring in top coaches for the young kids with great potential, this can funded by either the government or some lottery funding but it's essential it's an opportunity for all, not just those that can afford it.

  • Comment number 28.

    Regardless of money, Britain is too parochial and closeted an environment for tennis player to develop to the highest level. Players growing up in Britain are constantly under a microscope and don't get enough global tournament experience. Talented youngsters need to be thrown into the maelstrom of worldwide junior tennis early. Only then will they develop the perseverence, toughness and desire which, along with talent, will enable them to garner a top 50 world ranking. Coaches are simply babysitters, mollycoddlers and diplomatic parent handlers- next to useless. Cox, Stillwell, and Taylor didn't have coaches and trainers.

  • Comment number 29.

    Was it a supprise that the men at the top dodged the bullet ... ??
    There are too many vested interests in tennis, young talent isn't one of them. But then again the sport needs to sort itself out across all levels, junior, senior, amateur club and elite professional and that will take stronger leadership than the incumbents

  • Comment number 30.

    Tennis gets less people playing it because it's not as good as football. In fact, it's well boring!

    In tennis we have two over privelledged rich kids knocking a ball back and forth, with their parents forcing them to play at some boring tennis club. They'd much rather be out horse riding or skiing.

    In football we have 22 OR MORE players having FUN running about, and anyone can play a part no matter their skill level OR how rich their parents are. In football all you need is a ball and a bit of space. Tennis requires boring courts, boring equipment, boring rules, boring travelling, boring parents and boring coaches forcing you to "serve correctly".

    As a top sportsman I could have played tennis, but quite frankly it was too boring compared to football.

    It's the same reason we're rubbish at athletics. Why run along a boring track in one direction, when you could be running along AND kicking a ball AND moving in 360 degrees?

  • Comment number 31.

    Get a reality check! Sure, Dan Evans lost to a lower rated opponent but this happens in sport. This is also what makes sport exciting. Seems a bit crazy to suddenly talk about getting rid of Draper and co. Can you imagine how much pressure this puts Dan, James and the other guys in the team under? Look at what happened to Alex Bogdanovich!

    Why couldn't Andy Murray have made himself available for even just one match. Especially as the stakes were so high. He asserts that the DC players should have a say in the appointment of the next Captain. It sounds as if he has already decided that he won't play any DC tennis?

    If Andy wins one of the Grand Slams this year, he will have been vindicated in his decision to not play. I suspect that he won't achieve this feat. He has to change his defensive mindset to do this and I just don't think that he can.

  • Comment number 32.

    Everyone talks about the failure at the grass roots level, here I have a shining example of that failure, one the LTA seem proud of. Look no further than the West Hants Club in Bournemouth. They are an LTA run facility and have not produced a player of any decent standard for the past 10 years (which is when they (LTA) took over incidentally).

    How can an LTA run facility fail for so long and they keep the same personnel on staff. It's the same guy who opened the doors 10 years ago who's still in charge today. The definition of insane is to keep on doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result - so is Draper insane?

    I've got an idea, as the LTA reward failure and none can be so great as the guy that runs the West Hants, why don't the LTA board kick out Draper and give that guy the job - he really will put the fail in failure.

    So food for thought - if an LTA run club can't get it right, and presumably they have to do it exactly how the LTA wants it, then does that mean the LTA's development system is flawed or the coaches at the Club teaching the system? It's probably both I guess!

  • Comment number 33.

    Although I am no expert on the matter, just a british tennis fan. I find it very difficult to understand why we do not have more men in the top 100 if we are spending all this money on tennis "at grass roots level". If we look at the other "top" European nations you will see that France have 12 players in the mens top 100, Spain have 12, Germany 11... even Italy have 4 and Croatia 3... we have One!
    Surely this proves that there is something fundimentality wrong with the way we bring players through the system. I do get the impression as an "outsider" that our junior selection process is very regimented and rigid with specific age groups and touraments which do not take into account an individuals level of competance, I was always taught that to get better you should always play opponents better than you!. I can understand why parents (being one myself who has a 12 year old who is playing a good standard of cricket), that without our support (and money!), they would probably not be playing the sport now, and how frustrating for parents of children with good tennis potential this must be.
    Things have got to radically change in this country if we are to justify the large amount of money being pumped into the sport and help our talented youngsters develop properly... maybe use some aspects of the French, German and Spanish models... they seem to be paying dividends?

  • Comment number 34.

    The problem is surely a lack of depth in British tennis, especially in the men's game. So a lot is resting on Andy Murray. If he plays, we could stand a chance against most countries, if he doesn't were are a target waiting to be shot at. As such, that surely is the LTA's problem. Surely Draper has to take ultimate responsibility. Why have we not got 3 or 4 guys in the top 100 or 150 in the world rankings? For a relatively rich nation with something of a tennis heritage that doesn't seem an impossible target.

    Surely a totally new approach to developing tennis players is needed. Perhaps the free tennis type campaigns will help, but its a lot more structural than that it seems to me. They will help raise the amount of recreational tennis played, but how exactly do we take things the next step further and find talented youngsters worth investing in? Soccer clubs get players at 8, as do a lot of tennis academies around the world. How many 8 year olds in this country have even picked up a tennis racket?

    I don't think its just a tennis problem mind. I think its a problem across British sport. The England cricket team relies on imports more than most would like, the England rugby team splutters to produce real high quality talent, and also imports a lot of guys.

  • Comment number 35.

    #22, good comment, I have to agree.

    #30, tennis is not boring. That's your opinion, as (apparently) a footballer. My opinion is that tennis is entertaining. Nor is it for "over privelledged rich kids"!

    Although as people have said, we need more widely available cheap tennis courts. Instead of wasting money on whatever it's wasted on these days...

  • Comment number 36.

    Jonathon's article refers to the problems experienced with Junior ratings and players playing in the wrong tournaments. In my opinion the whole Junior ratings systems needs a complete overhaul (or scrapping altogether).

    The Junior tennis system puts too much emphasis on ratings for me.

    The present ratings system says you need 7 wins and a 60% qualifying win/loss ratio during a given period to improve a player's rating. Fine so far. However, I know of Junior players who having got their 7 wins/60% win ratio then stop playing tournaments until the next period for fear of losing a game and damaging their 60% ratio and therefore not improving their rating.

    Also players are entering tournaments to try to improve their rating but finding that due to surprising results in the early rounds they would have been better off losing their first round match and playing players in the consolation event to improve their rating.

    Surely any (ratings) system that discourages players from playing or finds that players could be better off by losing certain games seriously needs looking at.

    We junior players out there on the court playing tennis as often as possible to the best of their ability, without fear of losing, if the tennis standards in the UK are to improve.

  • Comment number 37.

    Football has almost every child taking part at some level and we are in the top 10 in the world.
    Swimming has a participation of 3 million and we are arguably in the top 4 in the world.

    It is elementary to understand that the more kids playing, the better British tennis will be in 10 years time. Even if it isn't better, at least the vacant courts will be used and kids will be fitter and happier.
    More, cheaper indoor courts and canopies over free outdoor courts (when the inevitable rain comes) is the long term solution and it would cost about as much as the canteen at Roehampton (£500,000 was reported).

  • Comment number 38.

    I personally feel the reaction, whilst justifiable, has been taken to consider only the one negative in British tennis - the inability to produce more than one male tennis player in the top 100 in the world. Yet, there has not been one mention, not one, of the positives in British tennis right now. Elena Baltasha is now 64 in the world, and 25 in the race - she was 347 when Draper took over in 2006. Katie O'Brien is 100, from 193. Keothavong hit the top 50 last year from 168 in 2006. Sarah Borwell has become a top 100 doubles player from being nowhere. Then we've also got Laura Robson, who is already capable of reaching the last 8 of grand slam doubles tournaments, and Heather Watson who won the girl's US open singles championship.
    Tennis is meant to be a sport where women and men are treated equally and receive the same prize money - perhaps it’s time we started viewing it as such. And if we did, you never know, you might start noticing how much improvement Draper has made in this area.

    And whilst we're on team sports, if Murray had of played to half his ability we'd have won the Hopman Cup - which, though some tennis experts treat it like a pinch of salt, generates a hell of a lot more interest than the Davis Cup nowadays.

  • Comment number 39.

    How come apart, from Andy Murray, British men's tennis is at such a low ebb, whilst our women seem to be having a relative resurgence?
    Are we doing something right with the women that we're not doing with the men?

  • Comment number 40.

    Er, Lloyd turns up, calls up a few players. They play. They win or lose. Everyone goes home.

    How can he be responsible for anything?! When you don't have the players, you can't produce the results.

    The LTA has been a joke with Britain's no1s all coming from other sources.
    It doesn't matter how much money you pump in, you need the players to work harder and improve. Andy Murray states that and I think he is 100% right. There is no point in all the first class facilities and coaches if the players aren't going to make use of them.

  • Comment number 41.

    I agree about the comments about looking at women's tennis as well, and praising the improvements and stickability shown by our players. Maybe this is revealing.....men's football (and footballers) is so insanely overhyped by the media that it is no surprise that our talented sportsmen do not choose tennis. This is not going to change any time soon, so somehow we need to spot and develop talent before the great behemoth gets them into it's maw (and I LIKE football, but not the hysteria). Meanwhile, John Lloyd, the man in the moon, old uncle Tom Cobley and all are on a hiding to nothing as DC captains.

  • Comment number 42.

    Point 20

    Chris- seems to me you are holding a BIG grudge because your tennis match was cancelled. but this feat alone hardly disqualifies Lloyd from running British tennis. Lets face it the elder Lloyd has done very well in business so why not let him run British Tennis. he cant do any worse than Draper.

  • Comment number 43.

    #41 Not only is men's sport overhyped, women's sport is completely overlooked. Every Wimbledon we are told we haven't had a singles champion since Fred Perry, yet Virginia Wade won in 1977. In the eyes of the sporting media, women don't count. The distinctly mediocre men's cricket team won team of the year (BBC Sports review of the year) even though the women won the ashes, the world cup & the 20/20 world cup. As #38 points out, the only reason a fuss is being made about the Davis Cup, is because it's the men who are failing.

    As Jo Durie once said, tennis in the UK is seen as a hobby and tennis club members do not think of it as a potential career. There is not the desire to excel, even if they have the resources. (Jo Durie didn't say the next bit) Tennis is played by the G&T drinking classes and is completely irrelevent to the overwhelming majority of Brits, except for two weeks of the year, when we all go Wimbledon mad. If we want to excel at any sports, we need a fundamental change of policy within our marxist, anti competitive sport and anti aspiration education system.

  • Comment number 44.

    Take the LTA's budget for 1 year, split it 5 ways Men's singles, Women's Singles etc. Offer it as prize money in a Britain only winner takes all competition in 5 years time. £12 million would focus a few minds.I reckon you'll get a better result doing that than what Draper has accomplished.

    Why don't the LTA just admit that they like tennis as it is in the U.K and that the structure isn't suitable for the pursuit of excellence?

  • Comment number 45.

    Success at tennis takes a great deal of commitment. The athlete is the key ingredient but parental/family support is crucial. For anyone outside the LTA / Aegon net, the sacrifices are particularly huge. How many families are prepared to focus most of their attention and resources on their childs tennis development? There are not many because it costs a great deal in terms of time, money, blood, sweat and tears.

    As a parent of one of these aspiring kids, I am not asking for LTA funding. At best, this is only a temporary stop-gap anyway. What I think the LTA needs to seriously consider is why are the fees for tournaments and matchplays so exhorbitant? Why are these same kids now restricted to playing one grade of Aegon tennis, where as before they could play in more than one grade? (i.e. mens teams and boys teams). Why are there no subsidies or decent discounts in place for serious juniors to help with clothing, shoes, equipment, etc? The same for physio fees, coaching, accommodation, travel, etc?

    These kids that lie just outside the LTA / Aegon net are effectively the poor relations but don't be surprised if the next few top British mens players are NOT a product of the LTA. In true British spirit, it's likely to be these kids who are working harder at success, want success more than the fetted few and have equally determined & committed parents...

    Cost is just one huge issue; schooling is the other. Simplistically, I think that these two matters are the root of the problem.

  • Comment number 46.

    I have just spent the early hours of the morning reading the previous blogs with great interest, most are sensible and written by sports fans with a genuine desire to see Britain succeed at something in sport, and in this case "tennis". It is true that in the last 35 years our women have had more success than the men(sorry Ginny it is nearly that long)but if you watch womens tennis today it all comes down to who can stand on a baseline and make the least mistakes, it has become boring. They are all much of a muchness playing the same style of tennis, hence the unpredictablity of who will win, they can either lose in the first round or get lucky and make it to the final. The winners are generally the fittest and fastest on the day who have worked long hours on their technique and come from a country where the desire to win is based on a need to make money to raise themselves up in the world. We have a few lady players who have the desire to succeed and put in the effort, but the overall standard of womens tennis worldwide is pretty poor compared with the days of Martina Navratalova, Billy-Jean King, Margaret Court and even Virginia Wade, who played all over the court and not just from the baseline. Hence in the UK we have ladies who make it into the top 100 at a time when flair and real ability are sadly lacking, apart from perhaps Justin Henin. Look at the impact she made when she returned, it was actually a pleasure to see a lady tennis player who didn't set up shop behind the baseline.

    Men's tennis also lacks the all court game of previous generations, but if you look at the top men, the one thing that stands out is generally how fit and muscular they are, playing their power game from the back of the court. Andy Murray's big improvement came when he went from a skinny teenager to a muscled young man, he put in the effort to develop his body and not just get fit but super fit, developing his whole muscle structure. When I look at the players who represented GB in the Davis Cup (and they are the best we had to offer), they are pale skinny, unmuscled athletes who look incapable of lasting five gruelling sets of tennis, so how are they to compete against the Nadal's, Djokovic's, Verdasco's, Tsonga's of this world who are very fit muscled young men. It is down to those individuals to get theselves to a fitness level to compete on a world stage. They may have the tennis skills to be their club or county champion, but to get to the next level they need to put in the sustained effort that makes a champion. None of the so called stars of the future, apart from Murray, have ever seemed to have the real desire for hard physical effort. The current "crop" of tennis players who make up the Davis Cup squad fall into this category and will end up where their predecessors went and make a living as club professional, with the title "played county tennis" or "was once UK top 10 player" or even worse "played Davis Cup", no one will ever remember them, teaching anyone who is prepared to pay for a lesson, and they will breed the same lack of effort into future generations of tennis players. Coaches in the UK are "nice" people who have gone through the LTA traing programme have all the credentials and play a decent standard of tennis, none of them ever had the desire to be a world beater, so what chance for their pupils. Only the Murray's of this world with a parent or parents who dedicate their lives to their childs success and take them out of the UK will ever make the men's top 100.

    We haven't had a men's Grand Slam champion for 74 years and I wouldn't hold out much hope for Andy Murray, watching him recently he is happy to get to the last eight or last four of a tournament and make several million a year by sitting on the baseline defending, he has to up his game and start attacking if he wants to win the big matches. He talks of a desire to win a Major and everyone predicts that he will, but even he has work to do, like all the others it will not be handed to him on a plate.

  • Comment number 47.

    My point was you can't force kids to play tennis.

    Also, with tennis you can fit less people into the same space compared to other sports. This means it costs more per person, which immediately means most parents won't pay. In turn, the sports centres will only offer football.

    Where I live (small town) there are 4 indoor football pitches, and 3 outdoor. I have to book 1-2 weeks in advance to get a pitch, or block book for 10 weeks, because the demand is so high. There are countless 5 a side football leagues! You can join one of these, and we get proper referees and well run torunaments, and it costs £2.00-£3.00 per player per game! The demand/competition is so high one of the leagues gives you a free kit for your team if you sign up for 2 seasons.

    If someone says "oi mate can I play this week" then I can say "yes, just turn up at 7pm m8". It improves our maths skills as well, dividing up the cost per player, "ok m8 bring £1.72 this week alright?" With tennis I'd have to hunt around in dark cupboards looking for raquets, get out a copy of the rulebook and points socring system, make sure we had an even numbers of players, make sure they are rich enough to pay... total nightmare.

    Okay so some idiot might say "let's make it cheaper". So you would have to subsidise sports centres to offer tennis at a cheaper price. Okay, nice idea, really. Let's put more funding into a solo sport which barely anyone wants to play, and is not as good as football. I know, let's force kids to play tennis! And when they don't turn up, and we find them in the park playing football with 21 m8s, let's ground them. Learn them some discipline at the same time!

    Maybe we could start paying kids to play tennis?

  • Comment number 48.

    #43 Quote stracepipe "Women's sport blah blah blah"

    I read your post with great interest.

    I wonder why women's sport is largely overlooked? Is it because men rule the world and deliberately ignore watching women's sport, even though they secretly want to?

    Listen, I've TRIED watching women's football. I really have. Let me tell you, it was rubbish. I thought diving was bad in the men's game, but the World Cup in women's football was a complete joke. It was so frustrating to watch, players like "Marta" of Brazil, supposedly good, but just horrendous cheating throughout.

    And women's tennis. It's more about what they are wearing than actual skill. Okay, that doesn't apply to all players. There are some good women players there, but is anyone else bored of it? The Williams vs Williams games with the thoughts they're not really trying, former ranked 1 players like Ivanovic collapsing to massive defeats, retired players coming back and winning tournaments easily...

    QUOTE: "If we want to excel at any sports, we need a fundamental change of policy within our marxist, anti competitive sport and anti aspiration education system."

    Very interesting... so you're saying we don't excel at any sports currently. We need to impose our will and force people to play rubbish sports such as tennis and running-in-one-direction-between-two-lines. We must prevent kids from playing sports they want to, such as football, and force them to "do their chores" and play a "match" (is that what is called?) of boring tennis.

    Let's hope the Tiddliwinks Association doesn't get any more funding, otherwise they'll be on the BBC banging on about falling standards, and wanting to force kids to play their rubbish sport.

  • Comment number 49.

    The facts-if you have 3 kids aged from 12 to 18 and they have worked hard to get into the top 50-lots of training,lots of passion -there is ZERO LTA funding.It costs a minimum of £1,500 a month just to compete in the UK at that level.To be in the very elite ITF rankings you have to travel to Europe for tournaments....16 and up you won't be eligible for any LTA funding unless you have a top European ranking.Not even if you are No. 1 in all the UK at 16,unless you have that European ranking you will get nothing.Find out the funding for players at the LTA website...
    This is why tennis has an elitist image because you really do have to have the money unless your child was brought into the LTA funding at 12 and taken to Europe to train(for weeks) and compete.Where has the boy who won Eddie Herr and The Prince Cup just this past December gone?Just left to train full time in France.The LTA needs to regroup with new management from the top down...There are an awful lot of dedicated young players here...and not enough great coaches and not enough good advice

  • Comment number 50.

    As the first comment said, it's a game.

    When I was younger I used to play tennis for fun (and partly because my father is a keen tennis player). I also used to rock-climb, play competitive chess, and I have a lifelong love of hill walking.

    ..And all done without the aid of the LTA or similar organizations.

    Why do we need them?
    Why do we need MPs forming "an all-party Parliamentary group investigating British tennis" ?
    Does anyone care?
    Does it matter?

    And even if it does matter, does it matter that it matters?....

  • Comment number 51.

    The simple fact is, the naturally gifted young athletes in this country want to play football. Simple reasons for this:
    1. TV. It is on TV 24/7, it is talked about constantly on tv. E.g Sky sports news the program is called "football tonight" or "football today", it will never say "tennis today" or even when the olympics is on it won't say "athletics today". We only care for football in this country!
    2. Money. It is where all the money is and it doesn't cost a kid or parent any money to play football. To make any real money in tennis you have to be the best around, to make money in football you could play in the conference and still earn a thousand pound a week. To play for a football team as a child it costs £4 a week in subs money, to play tennis it will cost more than £100 to join the club, average £20 for a private session with a decent coach, good racket £100+,good balls are over £5 for a pot of 3.
    3. Social. Football is a social sport, it is played in school playgrounds from a young age all the way through to when you leave secondary school, and you play it with all your mates. If I played tennis at lunchtime when I was at school I'd get abused!
    4. Weather. Tennis is great fun in the summer but unless you have the luxury of having an indoor tennis court near you and the cash to afford playing indoors, it is nearly impossible to play tennis in the winter as a child. Football you can play all weathers, for no fee whatsoever.

    The only people that play tennis(In this country)as children are either, wealthy, or not talented enough play football so try playing another sport. Once in a while someone great will come along by pure luck, such as Andy Murray, the only reason Andy Murray plays tennis is because of his mum, he may never have picked up a racket if it wasn't for her, luckily when he did he had talent, but that doesn't come around often.
    And you know he must be good at football because he is always doing kick ups with the tennis ball!

    Does Tim Henman look like a natural sportsmen to you? Nice a guy as he is, and as good as he was to watch he definitely wasn't a natural athlete. If you didn't know he was a tennis player, to look at him you would think he was a skinny computer geek!

    My point is this, the only way to get great tennis players in this country is to stumble upon a natural talent and train it before that talent takes up football, otherwise you will end up training someone with very little talent, spending lots of money and getting absolutely nowhere!

    If you want my point to be proven just read the post of "thefrogstar", he played tennis because his dad was a keen tennis player, other sports he played include "chess". Without digging him out and being rude, does that really sound to you like someone who has a natural gift to play sport? That's the type of people who take up tennis in this counrty, not your Wayne Rooney's and Steven Gerrards. Rafa Nadal had the choice between being a footballer and a tennis player, coincindence......I think not.

  • Comment number 52.

    '42 Archie - your dead right I hold a grudge about a match being cancelled under such circumstances. What yo9u are missing is that it is perfectly reasonable to do that - what happened there is definitley NOT the way to manage anything. It shows a total lack of understanding of what's required and therefore is fair comment as to why David Lloyd should not be considered.

    What I cannot believe is that you can think of offering anyone the post on the basis that "he can't do worse than X". What kind of selection policy is that? Oh yeah... it's the one we've been running up to now.

    #30 Nebune- I cannot believe that anyone thinks tennis is boring but... each unto their own. Suffice it to say that I find football totally boring to watch being such a low-scoring affair and totally lacking in the technology that might produce a fair result.
    I follow it in the news out of interest but I cannot sit through a whole game without something else to do on the computer or something so that I can just look up if the crowd or comnmentator make a noise. Trouble is... they get excited over the most trivial nonsense so... it's better just to do something else and look at the results.

    Football needs a serious shake-up too.


    Lastly - the suggestion that John Lloyd is not responsible... well, sorry but the Vilnius result is not about the state of men's tennis in general, it IS about the fact that the British team he took there should win that on paper and underperformed on his watch. He must be responsible for that and for previous failures of a similar nature.

  • Comment number 53.

    The problem with British Tennis is the lack of accessibility and set up in general of junior tennis.

    Tennis should be played in schools, in local school leagues providing all children an opportunity to play competitively. Speaking from experience, this doesnt happen in comprehensives. The season could be Sept-Oct and then Apr-Jul due to the weather and lack of indoor facilities at schools, or even in general...

    If a junior goes to join a local tennis club, how do they afford to play; who votes in their membership; who seconds their membership; who do they pay with before they are accepted into a clique; who invites them to the social functions; who gives them decent competition; where are the competitions; how do they get on when the over 50's have a mixed doubles arranged from 5-7 on a Wednesday night?... British Tennis has stereotypes for a reason...

    People love playing tennis, fact. If you don't believe me, go up to your local park in the summer, to get a court available can be a rarity. From parks however, where do these people go; how do they get spotted by tennis coaches, clubs, academies; and why would they go the next step if the working class kid on the street is never going to be accepted into the club, let alone afford the prices?

    If I was in charge of the LTA I would open up my own clubs, city academies throughout at least the 20 biggest cities in Britain. Based on the same model as Goals (the 5 a side football places; though a lot, lot cheaper); each academy would have a minimum of 3 indoor courts, and a minimum of 6 outdoor courts. Each academy would have equipment to use free of charge. Each academy would be assigned a minimum of 5 coaches, whose responsibilities would include training young players, scouting young players in the school leagues, running teams that play in the city league, and organising/promoting/running local tournaments, with targets and bonuses. The LTA receives millions of pounds each year, so this model could be easily implemented.

    Higher up I would remove the county structure with all its cliques and let the 5 coaches who run each city academy pick the regional representative team, professionals doing a professionals job. In each region where there is an academy I'd replace the county system by introducing a city competition. For example Manchester would play Liverpool, Edinburgh would play Glasgow, and Nottingham would play Birmingham. This would make lower grade tennis much more attractive and in touch with inter city rivalry and competition.

    Weekly tournaments would be held too, with prize money for the top few; the best players in Britain can then play on the main tours, as players only get funding for winning competitons; not because they were picked for funding, as is the ad-hoc way of doing it at present based on a flawed rankings system, which is a constant system of failure.

    Also, the player can be coached by whoever they want to be coached by, so John Smith, who scouted a kid out at the age of 6 in a mini tennis league match at the local school league match, could still be that players coach when they get through to the 2nd week of Wimbledon 12 years later...

    Golf in Britain, which has many social barriers for poorer people like Tennis; is a good example as to how Tennis academies for the masses would work. Municipal golf courses opened up Golf to so many more people, which if you look at the World rankings in Golf, one or two Brits aren't doing too badly. The R and A are custodians for the game worldwide; the LTA can't even get it right in 4 countries!

    No one will read this at the LTA, and why should they? At least this idea has been put forward from someone who'd be a doer, not a talker, is free of charge, and came from no committee, sub committee, review etc who'll smokescreen the major issues.

  • Comment number 54.

    When China decided to win at basketball they rounded up squads of talent with the necessary attributes and invested massively.
    In GB we seem to think that talent will magically arise with limited indoor court numbers and virtually no funding when it matters most at ages 12 to 17. Free play for kids - where?
    Solution - more indoor courts and a Spanish or US style of tennis centres in at least 4 locations in GB. Scholarship backing ages 12 to 17 and more numbers being brought through to compete in full tennis in those age groups.
    Otherwise, yes it remains a marginal GB sport open only to those with the hunger and the funds.

  • Comment number 55.

    Not too sure why all these people think that the solution is to build more indoor tennis facilities. Do you guys not stop to think for 1/2 a second as to how much it would cost to build these facilities, let alone the cost for some punter to use the facility? Can't help but think that these well intentioned ideas are from people with absolutely no idea of what they are spouting off about? Don't you people realise that too much money has already gone down the pan in Roehampton! The generation of serious kids, outside of the LTA umbrella, make do with the outdoor facilities on offer. They are hardy, all weather, get on with it kids. These kids get by with the support and encouragement of their parents, and their tennis coaches. What the LTA need to do is recognise these efforts and subsidise their costs in some way, shape or form. i.e. tennis equipment, fees for lessons, tennis clothing, tournament fees, etc. The LTA give free membership to the LTA but little else. This way they can track the number of players in the system. Compare tennis to kicking a football in the park and the stark reality is that access to football is comparatively cheap. The big problem is that the top tennis kids are fetted by the LTA, spoilt rotten with the attention, funded, highly conceited and rewarded for artificial age group ascendency. Their contemporaries around the world graft and toil and this is the key difference; the non-Brits want success really badly. The poor Brits meanwhile have had it handed to them on a plate by the LTA. Rewarded for mediocrity. This is why the next successful batch of Brits will not be a product of the LTA. This is what Draper and co need to wake up to. I concur with the view that Andy Murray won't scoop one of the Slams. He is too defensive and doesn't have the attacking game to hit the championship winning shots. Does anyone else agree or does footy rule?

  • Comment number 56.

    Participation is key. If we assume (and I think it's a safe assumption) that progress from one level of the pyramid of achievement to the next is a constant ratio (i.e. for every 10 players at one level, there is 1 player at the next level up, and so on), then the only way to _consistently_ produce players at the highest levels is to widen the base of the pyramid. And that means more people playing the game socially, creating more opportunities for development of young players.

    I would also decry the notion that we need to 'spot talent early'. This is misleading and wrong. It is hard work, application, dedication and willingness to train towards a goal that marks out the professional from the amateur. Focusing on 'talent' means missing those who would scale the same heights through sheer determination.

  • Comment number 57.

    So finally, what's the solution?
    Its the unique nature of tennis that makes it fall through british sporting cracks.
    The problem is simple: you can't play the sport in the winter due to our special weather. It's not that it snows so much, or that its always sub-zero. no... it's just perfectly wrong for tennis. Light, fuzzy balls don't like the wet and wind. ... and cold and dark. But it's not bad enough that you can't play outside at all.... no.. just perfectly wrong.
    But Holland, Belgium, Northern France all have about the same weather. Why can they produce the continous world players and we can't? INDOOR COURTS. THERES MORE INDOOR COURTS IN GREATER PARIS THAN IN THE WHOLE OF THE UK COMBINED.!!!!!
    We don't have the indoor courts in this country, so we don't play serious tennis year round like in the other great tennis nations. Build the roads, the people buy the cars... build the indoor courts, people will use them. When it's part of our sports culture, the depth will come...the players will come

  • Comment number 58.

    I read with interest the press on Britain latest Davis Cup mess and having spent so many years in an industry that us rife with politics, committees and general unwillingness to change it really leaves me wondering why there is so much surprise.

    I work with change. How to make it, when to make it, what sort of change and and how to get where you want to be. However, there has to be a deep seated want if change is really going to happen. The whole reason one goes to a coach at the outset is to initiate change. If they go for any other reason e.g. its fashionable, then they are in the wrong place.

    Back to the LTA and British tennis. I don't believe there to be any real desire to change. Gradually over the last 25 years maybe longer there has been a steady decline in our depth of good players. Our system is just not adequate and I know because I have been part of it. Other bodies laugh at us. Nick Bolletieri says we have no chance. And I agree with them wholeheartedly.

    Roger Draper has now been at the helm for 5 years, I think its now CEO, lovely! He made sweeping changes that made everyone think that 'change' was about to happen. But these were merely cosmetic. He changed one group of individuals with another. All competent people; those going out as well as those coming in, but it does not matter the level of competence if the core system is broken. A bit like getting a new train driver to drive the same broken steam engine.

    The LTA has to change completely. One way would be to start from zero. Currently it is the wealthiest sporting body in the country and one of the wealthiest in the world. But you cannot buy standards in any performance sport. The Argentinians have no money and hundreds of players....

    Starting from zero would be to get rid of all the committees or at least have them all agree to dissolve themselves, but of course this takes courage and a real willingness to change! Take away all the funding from players who are propped up artificially and would probably not be there if it was not for the funding. Then disassociate from all of the traditional British tennis clubs. This is probably the biggest area and most difficult decision but has to be made. They are the achilles heel of British Tennis and stuck in the dark ages. Of the 2500, around 2000 still do not open their doors. Then let passion drive the sport and find out who really wants to play tennis for the right reasons and which clubs want to open their doors to public players as in other successful tennis nations. There is a role for the LTA to organise a tournament structure that allows competition but right now that is about it.

    The LTA is a great place to build careers and move on but it is not a place to build tennis players. It never will be until they initiate real change and that has to come from the top. Perhaps the real top at government level where it is decided who the governing body is.

    We need to let players find themselves instead of thinking that the LTA can find players. It does not work like that and never will. Andy Murray and TIm Henman were nothing to do with the LTA in their development years. They did it alone. It has to come from the person.

    One day I am sure The LTA will have a leader strong enough to break the company up and let people go. Let the sport find itself again... But until then I am sure we are in for another change of make up fairly soon...

  • Comment number 59.

    Tennis in our country is a bit of a joke, don't you think? I love playing tennis, but the only reason that I couldn't go and play every day and have the potential to go and be something in the sport was simply that the infrastructure was lacking. Despite the funding the sport gets, tennis in the UK is unbelievably expensive and is not accessible to people who want to just "pick up and play". Rackets are expensive, decent tennis balls that don't split after a few hard serves are expensive, joining a club is expensive, even using a court is expensive, more often than not. As well as this, if we want to promote the sport at grass roots level, then surely we should be promoting it more in schools as well? I remember that we would only play tennis in the summer term (1 out of 3 terms in the school year) and free use of the tennis courts was prohibited. And people wonder why a lot of families aren't interested.

    I loved, and still love, playing tennis, but it's just not accessible in the same way as other sports. It's the main reason that I chose to play basketball instead, which is now the 2nd most popular sport among under-16s in the UK. Let's make a comparison here:

    There are basketball courts everywhere, but there are limited tennis courts.

    There are thousands of accessible courts, both indoor and outdoor. Tennis, while having a fair amount of outdoor courts, has very few indoor courts, which promotes the philosophy that tennis is an outdoor summer sport in the UK.

    The cost of a good basketball rarely exceeds £20. A good tennis racket and a set of 4-6 good balls costs at least 4 times that amount.

    The cost of joining a basketball club in the UK for a season is usually under £200. The cost of joining a tennis club in the UK for a season is usually well over that.

    Basketball is classed as an all-year sport, and is promoted as such in schools. Tennis is classed as a summer-only sport, and is promoted as such in schools.

    Another thing is that with the bigger basketball clubs in the UK, they always offer relatively inexpensive Holiday Camps for kids during Easter, Summer, Winter holidays and half-terms, which would mean that, for under £100, you could usually get 2-4 days quality coaching. Where is that in Tennis?

    As a result of all of this accessibility in Basketball, it will mean that there will be a greater strength in depth for our national teams, and hopefully there will be even more players (and coaches, which is another thing the powers that be are trying to promote) competing at high levels. Why isn't Tennis doing the same?

    Although I know I sound like a one-man promotion team for Basketball, my point remains - Tennis is just not accessible to people, when it really could and should be. After all, we've invested a lot in other sports that we created, so why can't we do the same here?

  • Comment number 60.

    The fact that Murray's name was even mentioned in relation to the match against Lithuania is absurd. Just to satisfy my curiousity as to how poor Lithuania was so I checked the ATP site.

    http://www.atpworldtour.com/Rankings/Singles.aspx?d=22.03.2010&c=LTU&r=0

    They literally have only 3 ranked players - who are incidentally ranked 195th, 518th and 851st! Even the mention of Murray's name should be the source of utter shame and embarrassment in reference to this defeat. Yes, David Lloyd should be slated despite the utter failings of the LTA. He's paid 150 grand a year and he can't even get a second string Davis Cup team to beat them. Its the equivalent of Scotland losing to Samoa in football. Had he not resigned he should have been sacked and the role made an amateur one.

    On another point I do think Tim Henman should be involved either in the captaincy or the training program - of all the players he has been the darling of the Wimbledon set for years. He's been the most successful tennis player in decades prior to Murray and I still think his reputation alone would galvanise many. And of the few recognised British tennis players I feel he owes something back.

  • Comment number 61.

    I know this is about the Men's Davis Cup team but what is it the LTA is doing for women's tennis that they are incapable of doing for the men?
    Currently the Women have 3 in the top 125 and two of the top juniors in the World. Men's tennis is blinded by the ranking of Andy Murray. Perhaps if they accepted that Andy Murray is the Jewel in the Crown and concentrated on raising the rest there might be some hope for the future.

  • Comment number 62.

    Why on earth don't they ask Judy Murray to have a go at the Davis Cup? Why on earth don't they ask a woman? She's got credit!

  • Comment number 63.

    Hello! Mens pro tennis is very different to womens pro tennis. Many of the shots are hit very differently, namely with big topspin. Womens tennis is not very strong, and not exciting at all when compared to the top men. This is not being sexist but stating a well known fact.

    Andy Murray has developed a very successful winning strategy based around solid, if not ultra boring, defensive game. He needs to push on and play some aggressive winning shots, and not just base his game plan around his opponent making the mistake. This is effectively what Federer said. This is why Andy will not win a major.

    Petchey is an astute fellow. He is very good at criticising what is wrong with British tennis. I think that his proposals are gaining a larger following and I want to hear more from him. Draper should give him a major role.

  • Comment number 64.

    We know that British Tennis has lots of money. We also know that British tennis has underperformed. Can anyone explain what they have spent their money on over, say, the last 10 years? This would help me have a better understanding of why we have failed to produce results,

  • Comment number 65.

    British tennis is a laughing stock - so little return on such massive annual investment. When will the LTA learn that spoilt middle class kids do not have the hunger to succeed at the top level.

    British tennis is put to shame by squash, which has six English players in the men's world top 13 and similar success in the women's rankings.

    Remember when Andy Murray was being spanked by Roger Federer in Melbourne? During the same week James Willstrop won a squash grand slam, the Tournament of Champions played at Grand Central Station in New York.

    His reward for beating the top three Egyptians in the world was to be completely ignored by the British media.

    Shameful.

 

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