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Jonathan Overend's Wimbledon diary

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Jonathan Overend | 20:31 UK time, Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Hi everyone! My Wimbledon 2010 blog is going to be a mix of thoughts from the day's play, insights from the 5 live commentary box and a few nuggets of gossip and chat from behind the scenes. It should appear every couple of days, please send me your comments!

I watched Andy Murray win his first round match on Court One - an impressive performance after a slow start - while keeping an eye on Jamie Baker and Heather Watson on my TV monitor.

Before long Murray was left stranded as the only British player - man
or woman - in the second round of Britain's Grand Slam tournament.
It's the worst return from the first round ever and at a time when the Lawn Tennis Association is spending almost £60m a year on British tennis, do they believe such historical ignominy is acceptable?.

Jamie Baker Jamie Baker was the only Briton apart from Andy Murray in the men's singles draw. Photo: Getty

We will find out on Wednesday morning when I intend to ask their high command that exact question.

I dashed from Court One to speak to Murray knowing that, for a few years, he has bitten his tongue on the subject of British tennis. Why should he concern himself with it when he has enough challenges of his own?

Would he have anything to say?

"The rankings are not good enough," he said on the radio, 5 Live interrupting World Cup coverage to hear his views. "The last few years it [British men's tennis] has definitely got worse, less depth even than three of four years ago."

It was a simple, damningly factual verdict.

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The lack of depth in British tennis has been brutally exposed by a freelance sports reporter, not in print or on the air - but on the court. Nick Lester fully intends to take up the LTA's promise of a wild-card into a futures event after coming out of an eight-year retirement to win the British Tour event in Sutton, beating Davis Cup player Chris Eaton in the final. Lester's victory earned a guaranteed wildcard and he plans to play one of the London futures events later in the year.

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The chance of practising with Andy Murray should be a dream opportunity for anyone. When the world number four phones saying "join me at my training camp", one presumes most aspiring pros would drop everything to be there in a flash. Not so last year when two British also-rans declined the invitation to accompany Murray to Miami for intensive warm-weather training. One of them sent a text at the last minute.

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Who is the LTA staffer who disturbed Murray recently at the National Tennis Centre by practising cricket on the indoor courts? The all-sport enthusiast was using the tennis ball machine to "bowl" over the net before he whacked deliveries to all sides of the empty indoor centre with his cricket bat.

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A letter to the Sunday Times made interesting reading last week.
"Surely the Lawn Tennis Association must realise that throwing millions away trying to find a British tennis champion is unjustified?" asked a certain James Munro from Aneres, France.
Presumably not the same James Munro who heads up the LTA's media department and spends most of his time countering this particular argument.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Problems with Tennis are not through Britains lack of talent. Look around you and do you know where your local tennis centres are? I live in Swansea, I know of the very expensive Glamorgan club, and there are probably a couple of courts up leisure centres. When I lived in Milton Keynes I knew of a couple of very expensive, elite clubs where people could play and not a lot else. Where I teach there are no facilities for kids to play tennis, period. We have the courts (well, concrete with lines on), but no nets, no racquets, few balls.
    Why is it so difficult to play, why is it so expensive to play?
    Like I said, Im a golfer, golf is an elitist sport at the highest level - but there are a lot of provisions in place for those people who are just starting out, there is a lot more structure - because of the number of golfers their is no need to give out wildcards (Wimbledon should not give out ANY wildcards imo, what gives someone the right to be given an entry without earning it - other peoples careers are on the line).
    Our status will not change overnight, there needs to be a winning culture created, a culture where players are rewarded by progression and not be mediocrity. If they arent good enough to play their way into Wimbledon, then they shouldnt be there.
    Im not going to pretend I know anything about the current youth structures of tennis - but todays results are atrotious and are a serious embarassment for those connected with the sport.

  • Comment number 2.

    I have to say that the lack of depth in British tennis is a concern. Recently we've had several false dawns, Chris Eaton's charge through the qualifiers and into the second round of Wimbledon is probably the most prominent, but as soon as the adventure is over, they return to the bottom of the rankings. Something has to be done before Murray calls an early retirement and we have no-one in the second round at all.

  • Comment number 3.

    Apart from some money to pay Murray for some motivational stuff lets not throw good money after bad and accept that the money should be spent on other sports such as rowing athletics and even cricket where we have half a chance.
    Murray any way will enjoy sponsorship.
    Also sack the existing officials and take advantage of Australia's refusal to use the Macs and pay them maybe but lets not delude ourselves otherwise disappointment awaits.
    An expat

  • Comment number 4.

    Surely a major reason for the lack of British tennis talent is the woeful failure of the LTA to get the game into schools and public places. Contrast this with football, which has its tentacles deep into the grass roots of every town and village. To have any hope of making it as a senior, talent needs to be identified young - six or seven, maybe even earlier. But the only kids playing at that age have knowledgeable and enthusiastic parents and belong to clubs, which charge more for membership and tuition than many people can afford. My sons were keen on all sports and with early coaching might have made useful players, but there was nothing at their school, no cheap local clubs, and the first time either of them had any opportunity to play any tennis at all was at secondary school - by which time any child with tennis talent would be playing another sport. Get into the primary schools, lose the elitist image, reach out to children in deprived areas who are hungry for success, don't waste 60 million a year sponsoring a bunch of lazy, petulant prima donnas who haven't got the attitude to win matches (see specifically this year's ladies, Robson and Watson excepted). It's significant that our most successful player spent his formative years abroad, not under the dubious wing of the LTA. Something is very wrong at the top, and until attitudes change and kids are attracted to tennis at a young age, we'll continue to make a pathetic showing at Wimbledon.

  • Comment number 5.

    The paragraphs about the declining of the invitations to train with Andy and the farce at the Tennis Centre are outrageous, Andy knows how to get to the top and if you wanted that you would surely seek his help if he were offering it, shows a complete lack of ambition. Why does the LTA not enroll the men on a similar fitness program that improved Murray's game vastly? Players like Dan Evans can play shots but physically aren't strong enough to compete against big hitters or in long matches.

  • Comment number 6.

    Go on JO stick it to Draper. Apart from Fed all as usual, have a feeling Davy's gonna lose tomorrow. Can't believe the chokes from some of our girls

  • Comment number 7.

    Rather than hand out less wildcards to the British players I think they should be handing out more. 128 should do it ...

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Jonathon, just wondering if you can provide a link to an article about the British players declining Murray's offer for them to train with him?
    Also, do you know if the offer was for free training, or would they have been required to cover all the costs of training, accommodation and travel themselves? (or would the LTA have covered that?)

    Also, Harperobics hit the nail on the head too; can you ask the LTA guys about the training regime of the British players - natural talent is rare (and one would assume that any professional British players would have it in at least a small measure) - but every player can decide the level of fitness to which they wish to train towards (barring injuries)!
    And as is often seen, it can often simply be strength, stamina and conditioning that ultimately prove to be the decisive factor in matches.

    The British players (Murray excepted) may not be world beaters, but I would strongly wager that if they all trained for and reached the peak levels of strength, fitness and conditioning that Murray had, you'd see a massive increase in their performance and rankings!

  • Comment number 9.

    "We will find out on Wednesday morning when I intend to ask their high command that exact question."

    Don't hold your breath!

    I anticipate a deluge of marketing-speak, 5-year and 10-year plans, Steve Martens this and that, we are helping grass roots, 500,000 people play tennis every week, cha cha cha...

  • Comment number 10.

    Looks as though it is groundhog day again with the annual 2 week inquest into British Tennis from which nothing is learned and no structural changes are made.

    The LTA have persisted with throwing vast amounts of money at mediocre atheletes with moderate talent and dubious motivation. Many of these are from 'tennis families' with existing LTA connections. I am not saying there is nepotism but rather that these players were picked up by the LTA as juniors because they were doing better than other juniors. Unfortunately the reason for this is that they had tennis mad families who gave them the opportunity and resources to learn the game at a young age. In other words there is no competition from talented atheletes with great natural talent and real motivation simply because these are not given the opportunity to do anything in tennis at a young age.

    What is needed is public tennis facilities available at no cost with a strcuture of coaches supporting them to get talented youngsters into the game. Kids can go an play football on a pitch in the local park for nowt but it could cost them £20 to hire a public tennis court. The whole thing is a disgrace and it is not as though the LTA have not been told. Tennis for Free have been knocking on their door for years and offering to help without receiving a positive response.

  • Comment number 11.

    One thing you could ask Draper: why is it that the majority of our lady players seem to be overweight, at least in comparison with their opponents from other countries?

    Keothavong and Baltacha seem about right, but the others in general seem to be carrying extra weight.

    With all the support and dieticians, fitness gurus, etc, surely the LTA can get that right?

  • Comment number 12.

    If Murray won (big if, but really not impossible) would it be the best or the worst year for Britain? We are collectivity terrible but we have a freakish anomoly who popped up from a Scottish village to challenge Federer and Nadal. His story is more incredible than the baiting British press give him credit for. Basel and Mallorca is one thing, Dunblane is another.

    Anyway, the pressure the last remaining Brits get heaped with is scandalous. They are average wildcards on the whole, a collective trantrum of outrage when they lose is pointless.

  • Comment number 13.

    Well! Really cheesed off at Caroline for not printing my Wimbledon poem.

    But the upside of this is that the Wimbledon Diary comments thread just got itself a literary exclusive!...


    There once was a chap named Kohlschreiber
    Whose diet was chock-full of fibre
    When asked how his serve
    Had such wonderful swerve
    He replied, "It's the torque from me Khyber."


    Carol-Anne Duffy - who needs ya?

  • Comment number 14.

    I am employed as a Tennis Development Officer by a local authority in one of our largest cities. My team of coaches and I work on a day-to-day basis with schools, clubs, community facilities, indoor tennis centres, performance players and the LTA. Perhaps I have a comment or two to add based on fact, rather than - as with many of the British Tennis critics here - jumping on the annual bandwagon.

    "The worst performance in the first round ever..." is far detached from the "£60m a year in British tennis." This represents a failure in the system during the early 1990s, when these players were in single figures. The money you described is largely targeted - as described by Steve Martens and Nick Bolletteri on the radio this lunchtime - at our young players.

    What your readers - and apparently yourself - don't realise is that tennis is a very early specialisation sport. When we run events and performance coordinators attend to Talent ID, they are looking for 2005/06 births. This means kids that are 4 years old. Extreme, yes, but as Nick described, this is the age we need to get kids playing if we want to see Slam challengers from our shores. You can't throw money at a 250 ranked player and expect him or her to challenge in the later stages of main tour events. The investment you talk about will show rewards in 10-15 years time, not next year or the year after.

    Surely your self-described job as a 'tennis specialist' is to be knowledgable about the sport - not only the actions of the NGB, but what is happening on the ground with people such as my team of coaches. I for one don't see your job as being some out-of-hours commemtator who sits there with his pimms and annually slates the sport through a blanket of ignorance.

    Your comments both here and on the radio infuriate myself and my colleagues. I suggest you read up on the sport which you comment on with such inaccurate authority.

  • Comment number 15.

    The only reason Andy is as good as he is, is because his mum knew the LTA was a joke so sent him to Spain at her own expense and unfortunately thats probably the only way to get good if your British

  • Comment number 16.

    Don't mean to be pedantic but in the article about federer vs bozoljac, http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/tennis/8756640.stm, federer's opponent is referred to as Croatian throughout, when in fact he is Serbian. Wondering if this should be edited.

    Cracking day of tennis either way! Shame about the football results...

  • Comment number 17.

    steftheserbian7 wrote [16] :

    "Don't mean to be pedantic but in the article about federer vs bozoljac, http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/tennis/8756640.stm, federer's opponent is referred to as Croatian throughout, when in fact he is Serbian"

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

    LOL - it's hardly pedantic, Stef - they might as well start calling Andy Murray English!

    Mind you, be prepared for that before the fortnight's out - if he wins Wimbledon! ;)

    In any case, Ilija is assured of a warm welcome when he returns to Wimbledon - not only did he give Federer a run for his money, but "Bozo" is a nickname to die for...

  • Comment number 18.

    Can anyone explain to me the reason why the points in tennis go as follows:

    15
    30
    40
    Deuce/Game

    When you'd expect numerically:

    15
    30
    45
    Deuce/Game

    Why is it the jump goes in 15's for the first two and then 10 points for the third play? Is their a reason for this?

    Question from Adam Smith in Manchester.

 

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