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LTA must carry the can for failure

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Jonathan Overend | 23:14 UK time, Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The humiliation of Britain's relegation to the third tier of the Davis Cup, which exposed the ongoing struggles of the Lawn Tennis Association, was unacceptable for the majority of tennis followers in this country.

Why then should it be acceptable for those who sit in positions of power; namely the LTA president, the councillors and the board members?

We can only imagine what goes on when the boardroom door is closed (and I'm sure the executives are held to account in meetings) but should someone, somewhere, not be taking a very public stand now that things have hit rock bottom?

Year after year, and not just from the current regime but many before it, we hear the same promises for the future and the same vote of confidence in the latest five-year-plan.
Britain, one of the richest tennis nations in the world, has now lost four Davis Cup ties in a row including three at home.

Next year we have Egypt, Ireland and Monaco for company in Euro Africa Zone II and the earliest we can consider a return to the World Group will be 2012.

Andy Murray, Paul Annacone, Dan Evans, John LloydDavis Cup rookie Dan Evans lost the deciding rubber as Britain went down 3-2 against Poland in Liverpool

Lithuania, Norway, Bosnia and Estonia, four of the possible opponents for Britain when the draw is made on Wednesday, can't boast a single man inside the world's top 400 between them.

All this follows an embarrassing Wimbledon which was close to being the worst collective British performance in the Open era.

How many more facts are needed? For once it would be nice to hear someone in power breaking rank and calling it like it is.

Some would like to speak out, but are too scared. Others pretend that everything is fine and say nothing.

The LTA annual general meeting, attended by around 200 folk every December, serves as an illustration of this. Hardly anybody, even those who have travelled hundreds of miles to be there, asks a question when invited. Not even a soft one, let alone a probing one.

It is unusual for an under-achieving organisation which receives around £25m every year, plus sponsorship on top, not to be scrutinised a little more robustly by its members and councillors. Or perhaps everyone truly believes it's going to be OK in the end.

Chief executive Roger Draper made it clear in his interview on BBC Radio 5 live on Monday night that nobody will be sacked or asked to resign following the latest shambles - a 3-2 defeat by Poland in the Zone I relegation match.

He also stated that "nobody is panicking", an observation which will be fiercely contested by the panicking organiser of a county junior event this year.

The number of entries in the 10-and-under category in this particular county fell from 40 boys and 10 girls, to nine boys and three girls. Overall, entries were down from 356 to 261.

This is not down to poor organisation, poor publicity, poor weather, poor facilities or whatever. In this part of the country, fewer kids wanted to enter the annual county tennis competition.

It is the sort of report from the field which should not be ignored or, even worse, covered up by a batch of statistics - this is reality and an example of the many stories which fly into my inbox most weeks.

Of course, not everything is horrendous and a lot of good people are doing a lot of good work to try to make a difference.

During his interview, Draper pointed to the emergence of Laura Robson and Heather Watson on the women's side, both junior Grand Slam winners, and an interesting group of 14 and 15-year-old boys currently alerting the talent scouts.

Draper added that when he spoke to the group recently, they said their favourite part of the world to play in was South America and their favourite surface was clay.

This sounds eminently encouraging - the sort of noises British juniors have rarely uttered in the past - and one can only hope that a future star emerges from that batch (heard that before somewhere?).

On the evidence of the Davis Cup weekend in Liverpool, Britain urgently requires hardened, match-tough competitors to join Andy Murray, a shining example, in the team.

It is actually my opinion that he should rule himself out of the Davis Cup next season, not just for his own good but also for the long-term benefit of the team.

What is the point of him papering over the cracks? He played three matches in three days against Poland, with an injured wrist, and we still lost.

If Great Britain beat Estonia 3-2 in March, and all the points come from Murray, what have we learned? It is time for other players to step up and take responsibility.

Euro Africa Zone II is a low-profile division in which lower-ranked British players should be able to win live rubbers. Let's get them in and toughen them up.

Murray can then rejoin them for the new campaign in the higher division, knowing his team-mates are better, tougher and more experienced.

The British number one played magnificently in Liverpool although, interestingly, it was against medical advice.

On days two and three, I understand he was expecting to be rested by team officials who had seen the doctor's report on his injured wrist, but because the final decision was left up to him, he felt obliged to play.

Murray will feature again in future matches but, in the Euro Africa wilderness next year, I just don't see the point.


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Jonathan how are you? I couldn't agree with you more on this article. Its great to hear someone advocating the case that Murray should not concern himself with the Davis Cup, especially now that Great Britain have been relegated to Group 2. Ive always believed that Tennis, from the outset, is an individual sport where the concerns of that individual should override any other priority, such as Davis Cup. It makes no sense risking injury by playing for a mediocore team where everyone else around you simply does not possess the ability to compete. Your absolutely right, Murray is "a shining example". I don't know much about how the LTA works, but it seems that their inability to do the "right" thing so to speak, is an inherent feature in many British sporting organisations, (e.g. the FA and the ECB). Mistakes are made, but these organisations never panic. They always seem to take a careful, considered approach with any lack of imagination. Maybe a complete overhaul in the thinking of some of these people would do the trick?

    Anyway, take it easy.

  • Comment number 2.

    "During his interview, Draper pointed to the emergence of Laura Robson and Heather Watson on the women's side, both junior Grand Slam winners, and an interesting group of 14 and 15-year-old boys currently alerting the talent scouts."

    Why mention Heather Watson? I thought she trains at Bolletieri's Academy in LA? She may be funded by the LTA, but they don't seem to do much more.

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Johnathan, what happened to Chris Eaton? The LTA had that knockout competition to see who should be playing Davis Cup & he won it. He then went on to play 1 tie for GB & even though we lost to Ukraine, I believe he won his matches, so why leave him out this last time?

  • Comment number 4.

    You mention the AGMs - How many Journos attend and how many of them have been asking these tough questions in the last decade.

    We can all see the problems and the results, but what needs to be DONE to fundamentally change things.

    Why are France and Spain so successful or even Poland with their meagre budget of $750,000 ( According to Castle) compared to our tens of millions.

    We can all huff and puff - but what are the solutions - other "minority" sports ( swimming,diving,cycling etc) are breeding success- WHY isn't tennis ??

  • Comment number 5.

    I too am wondering why Chris Eaton was not picked. He had that wonderful wimbledon and looked really good playing serve and volley tennis. He then played in the mini tournament, won that with a marathon 5th set win to prove he has nerve. Then he did win a singles rubber (albeit dead rubber) in davis cup. Why was he overlooked. I have checked his website and there is no mention of him being injured. Does he just not play that much as his ranking is very low but his skills should have him much higher?

  • Comment number 6.

    Just to add to my point about Chris Eaton, i seem to remember he only made it into the davis cup play off to try and get into the team last year as a last minute replacement as there was an injury. Has he done something to upset the lta?

  • Comment number 7.

    Why mention Heather Watson? I thought she trains at Bolletieri's Academy in LA? She may be funded by the LTA, but they don't seem to do much more.
    Clutching at straws ED to try and paper over their failures.

  • Comment number 8.

    As a parent of one these "interesting group of 14 and 15-year-old boys currently alerting the talent scouts" (I think!) there are some positive signs for the future BUT it isn't clear what the LTA's role is. I said "I think", above, because I'm not sure. Nobody from the LTA has ever spoken to me about my son, never shared any future development plans and never explained how his potential talent can be realised. Any funding is inadequate, piecemeal and short term in focus. Many of our current/recent successes appear to have done it ouside of the system (Rusedski, Murray, Watson, L. Broady) and are clearly the exceptions rather than the rule. By the way, you talk about asking tough questions - I thought Andrew Castle gave Lloyd and Rusedski a deservedly hard time - are Greg's views on Bogdanovic now the official LTA line?!

  • Comment number 9.

    I most definitely agree that Murray should forget the Davis Cup for a while. As you and he has said, what's the point of him helping us go up a tier to the next level if the rest of the team aren't ready for that jump. He would do more for the game in Britain by getting to Grand Slam finals and winning Grand Slams than picking up a few points in a Davis Cup match against the likes of Lithuania.

  • Comment number 10.

    how about removing the funding and making these players go and work for it on the smaller circuits. If they had performance realted pay instead of a cushy ride they might be more motivated to succeed.

  • Comment number 11.

    I think one of the main problems is that there is almost no tennis on terrestrial tv, so kids don't see the top players in action. Why can't the LTA use some of its cash to join with the BBC to have a weekly highlights programme from the latest tournaments, nightly highlights of all grand slams, and all grand slam finals, not just Wimbledon? The British players who succeed seem to do so despite the LTA, not thanks to their help.

  • Comment number 12.

    So Murray was injured but played anyway - against medical advice. I wonder if he will get credit from the red-tops for risking his long term fitness and grand slam prospects to play in this shambles. Somehow I doubt it.

  • Comment number 13.

    It is truly staggering that the Corporal Jones "don't panic Capt Mainwaring" types are still so abundant and prominent at the top of British tennis. Where else can you fail abjectly and still sail on serenely as if nothing had happened? If a football club containing the third best player on the planet had fallen from the Premier League to League One, would the manager and Chief Exec still be in post, saying everything was fine? I think not.

    Yes tennis is a minority sport, but so is cycling, sailing, rowing and a ruck load of other sports we've enjoyed far more success in, with much less resources thrown at it.

    The whole structure of the sport needs a radical overhaul starting with the replacement of the LTA and the gin swilling dodderers that comprise it!

  • Comment number 14.

    Jonathan, Why do you feel the need for someone to come out and apologise publically? Everyone in the country knows it was a shambles and thatit's not good enough for the British public but having someone disclaim this publically serves no purpose. The players we have bar Murray aren't goo enough and maybe this is our level. Tennis is an individual sport that players should be able to compete wether it is Wimbledon or the Davis Cup. I can't see this as any fault of the LTA or any other board member.

  • Comment number 15.

    Whilst mildly interesting this is a redundant debate. Tennis isn't a sport in the UK; it is a hobby played by a very small number of people in a certain ethnic social group. It is administered as such by those who treat it as such because it suits their purposes. Outside of the occasional maverick who succeeds in spite of the LTA there is very little hope for producing anything like a pool of world class players that would allow us to compete in the cups in the current set up. The real tragedy is so much public money is wasted on a past time indulging those who wish to partake who almost definitely have the money to fund it themselves

  • Comment number 16.

    We have been reading similar articles for the last 20 years - usually just after another failure at Wimbledon or the Davis Cup and nothing ever gets any better. The LTA are simply ineffective at bringing talent through and developing promising youngsters into players with the necessary qualities to play at the top level. Even the successful individuals we have had recently Murray, Henman etc.. did not come through the LTA system

    The majority of the public in this country are only interested in tennis for 2 weeks in June and even then a lot of them just like the occasion rather than the sport itself.

    We have had success with other minority sports recently - rowing, cycling etc.. so why can we not produce good tennis players ?

    The obvious answer is the LTA.

  • Comment number 17.

    After being in Liverpool for the shambles that was the Davis Cup, I would like to ask what John Lloyd's actual job is? If the idea is to pick the right players then why not get some consistency in team selection? In the last few matches there has been Josh Goodall, Chris Eaton, Colin Fleming and others so why not give them more matches instead of "one match and then you're out" which seems to be the John Lloyd way. Suddenly, for the most important tie we have had for years, we go with a debutant in Dan Evans instead of someone who played in previous ties. Great Idea!! NOT! As a Davis Cup supporter, before it started, I knew that it was not going to end well. I think that Dan has the potential and I hope that his confidence has not been hit too hard by being thrown in the deep end by Mr. Lloyd.

    I have been following Davis Cup for the last 10 years and have been to some great matches and some not so good ones and I would say that the depressing ones have come in the last few years.

    I think that now is the time to have a clean slate and get a captain in there who always used to put in 110% and can really motivate the younger players. Greg Rusedski for example. Whenever, I saw him play, the whole crowd knew that he was always going to give everything and we always gave him all the support we could! The crowd factor is a big part of Davis Cup.

    I will continue to support the team in whatever group we are in and hope that we will get back to the World Group. If Israel can get to the world group semi-finals without high ranked players it can be done. I bet they have done it on a fraction of the LTA budget so there is something wrong there and the faster that the LTA get their heads out of the sand and see reality the sooner British tennis can move on and get a bunch of good players.

  • Comment number 18.

    I think that the team captaincy has to be examined closely. It was almost a given that if Andy Murray played in 2 singles matches he would pick up 2 points for the team, so the order he played wouldn't have been important. Dan Evans was put under an awful lot of unnecessary extra pressure by playing the fifth tie, knowing that defeat would relegate GB. Let him play the first tie on Sunday, then if he wins, Andy Murray could go ahead and seal safety (this time round) for GB; if he loses, and the tie is lost already, then Andy Murray can rest his injury and a replacement play (and get Davis Cup experience).

    All it needed was a little bit of common sense and man management.

  • Comment number 19.

    I agree with this and think that nationally tennis could do with improving in 2 areas:

    1. Schools.

    In my experience, you can go to school and learn the basics of a lot of sports well - rugby, football, hockey, basketball and badminton are all taught relatively well. But tennis came up against 2 problems when I was at school. Firstly, it was a summer sport and in the school's aim to fit in as many sports into the academic calendar as possible, meant that tennis had to compete with softball, cricket and various athletics. For us, this meant probably 1 or 2 lessons of tennis, in a single period of 45 mins and a class of around 30. Secondly, the teachers weren't tennis players. On occasion they would find a teacher in the school who could come after school for those keen, but generally they knew very little about the game. Surely if we can get it taught better in school, with suitable indoor facilities, we're gonna get more people interested and more people joining local clubs.

    2. Adult tennis

    Not enough people know how to play tennis and for those that want to, I'm not sure there is enough opportunity to play. In my research community everyone plays squash, bar a fellow tutor and a professor. Of the many of us who played through high school, pretty much all (including myself) quit at 16 - at 24 I've only just got back into playing. Many see it as a far too complex game to play and if they didn't play enough as a child shy away from playing anyone. I also wonder whether this factor affects the interest of children entering the game and keeping it up.

    Are there not enough indoor facilities? Is it too expensive? Or are we only interested in widening participation in those who could one day be professionals?

  • Comment number 20.

    "an under-achieving organisation which receives around £25m every year, plus sponsorship on top"
    what a waste

    "Overall, entries were down from 356 to 261."
    It's easy to find out about football or other sports (e.g., even league one Leyton Orient has links with local community, things like "Score", "Goals" centre).
    Where's the equivalent in tennis? Couldn't the LTA mount a Community Sports Programme?
    Also, LTA's not very responsive when anyone tries contacting them.

    Where are the facilities? the coaching? if someone has an interest in the sport, how easy is it to break in? Does the LTA encourage/seek out new talent? How big is the pool of players they're looking at? If many of the few players they have came through, not with their help, but in spite of it, what does that say about the organization? Where does one see/get exposure to tennis? Where is it promoted?

  • Comment number 21.

    My son is 12 and all his mates love playing Tennis, but you cannot use the local Tennis courts unless you are a member. This costs over £100 per year plus you are required to have group lessons which cost £5 each.
    There is no indoor facility so if it rains then that's tough.
    It is too expensive and not value for money. If you had indoor facilities as well so that it was all year round and the fees were cheaper I think a lot more would play.

  • Comment number 22.

    when will those guys sitting on the LTA start to realise to stop enjoying their champagne and prawn sarnies if they are really serious about the future of British tennis

    I am afraid Roger Draper is correct its going to take 5-7 years to sort out the state of British tennis

    The sport is still only for the privileged in this country unless they make it more accessible to kids in school to start playing at an early age then the improvements will not come sooner.

    Most tennis clubs are not interested in investing in future tennis stars they are only concerned about making profits now and not willing to wait for 5-7 years of investment to return

    The last 3 best British male players all did their own training and programme elsewhere to become top 10 players Henman, Rusedski and Murray

    The LTA need to look at whats wrong with the mens game if Murray is No 3 in the world and the next best player is ranked around 200 !!

    Murray should not bother playing Davis Cup for now because the others have to accept responsibility and not expect Murray to carry them through matches

  • Comment number 23.

    Doesn't anyone think the LTA and John Lloyd should have put measures in place to cultivate a decent team years ago- like when they still had the experience of Tim and Greg? They could have rotated new players into the team then to try them out, not now when there isnt a team to speak of.

    I also have a tennis blog-
    Let me know what you think

  • Comment number 24.

    I see the might of Lithuania away lie in waiting for us! John Lloyd says its an opportunity for youngsters to gain experience and win ties! Well that's putting a positive spin on it John. Kind of assumes we're going to win though and assuming AM doesn't play, I'm not convinced!

  • Comment number 25.

    the Davis Cup tie v Poland was a disaster from start to finish.

    why was Dan Evans picked when he is the British number 5?
    why was Andy Murray allowed to play all 3 days?
    what has happened to Jamie Murray, he is surely our most experienced doubles player?

    John Lloyd has had enough chances now and I just do not understand how he is allowed to continuously lose matches we really should win and still stay in his post. In football few managers would surive 1 relegation let alone 2!

    sadly there is very little chance of anything changing in British tennis as the mindset of everyone from the top downwards is completely wrong. Tim Henman and Andy Murray have been successes despite the LTA not because of it.

  • Comment number 26.

    The lack of personal responsibility of the LTA board with regards to the status of UK Tennis means that nothing will change and nothing will get better. And we will be going thru this same pointless debate in another 20 years. Heads must roll and after a quick look over at the LTA board you would have to ask why on earth there are so many chartered accountants on the board, general rule of thumb is the more incompetent a board the more accountants are on it. Only one has any real sport experience the rest seem to be full time/elected board members. And as someone who has worked with both, I can testify that it’s lots of money for very little ability. Wouldn’t it be good if we tax payers could choose whether or not we give taxpayers money to organisations like the LTA, bet you things would change then....

  • Comment number 27.

    I guess the fundamental question is whether the LTA is responsible for producing tennis stars? Personally, I don't think it is. Their responsibility is in providing a structure in which potentially world class players can be attracted, identified, thrive and progress. In this respect, I believe their vast sums of money is not well spent.
    My experience as a parent who is going through the system is not a good one - my 8 year old daughter plays 4 times weekly (5 if there is a tournament). She has been identified as a potential talent and a few times a year she is invited to county training camps. This, I see as the main LTA showcase (as far as juniors are concerned) to excite and motivate youngsters. In reality, there is minimal motivational content -instead there are lots of drills and tests (speed, strength etc.) which are compiled into reports which on the whole are pretty bland (akin to an auditor's note in company's annual statements) which provides no direction as to what your child is good at, what needs improving, what next steps should be taken etc.
    She gets very little funding (~£200 annually) which isn't my main gripe - it is voluntary after all. But unless a parent is relatively affluent (my annual tennis bill (club and coaching fees) for her is ~£2000 before shoes, clothes, travel etc.) and a child particularly keen to play, there is little hope of attracting a wide pool of kids to participate.
    The LTA's main functions should be to attract as many youngsters to try tennis, then to motivate them to play as much as possible by providing a structure for them to thrive - cheap / free tennis courts (indoors and outdoors), local tournaments, talent identification / motivational days. How the talent then matures is up to the individuals with support and direction from the LTA.

  • Comment number 28.

    tennis is so expensive to take up that it will only be done by kids that will have other pressures put on them and wont take it to the extreme dedication you need to be a top50 player. Other minority sports probably excel because other countries dont put that many resources in.

  • Comment number 29.

    Incase anyone is interested - Dan Evans has beaten Eaton twice in futures this year and never lost to him. I think the bottom line is playing some different would not have mattered, the guys are just not good enough. Ironically, i would have backed bogdanovic to have taken atleast one of them down, as atleast he has beaten top 100 players in the past and is consistently in top 250

  • Comment number 30.

    Somebody asks why France and Spain are so much more successful.

    Well - it is really very simple for the LTA. All they have to do is improve the "Great British Weather". Once the "GBW" matches that of the Mediterranean climes then British Tennis can look forward to an era of ascendancy.

    Anyone for tennis? It's 12 degrees C outside, blowing at 20 knots and raining like hell. Think I'll go practise my vollying. And no - there isn't an indoor court within 3 hours drive.

  • Comment number 31.

    Is it not just the case that people aren't that bothered about tennis in this country, apart from, of course, two weeks in June-July? It's merely a historial quirk that we've got one of the four majors, it has absolutely nothing to do with our pedigree in the sport.

    Fred Perry is a red herring: people assume that because we had this great player back in the 30s, he must have been part of this great era of British tennis. He wasn't. There was no-one before him (until you go back to Edwardian times) and there's been hardly anyone since. And the one conclusion you can draw from that is that there is simply no great love for the sport in this country.

    Is this a problem? Not really. We've got loads of sports we're in love with and perform pretty well at. Football, rugby, golf, boxing, snooker, darts, rowing, whatever. Do the French media gnash their teeth after every major golf championship because they haven't competed? Of course not. Do the Spanish start crying after every rugby union World Cup? Nope. They presumably just accept they're not that into those sports.

    As for being good at other 'minority' sports like rowing or sailing, well, they're hardly global. Pump lots of money into rowing and you're bound to be pretty good. Pump loads of money into tennis and, if the love isn't there at the grassroots, you're still going to struggle.

  • Comment number 32.

    Many are suggesting that we should cut the player's funding, but i believe that - rather than make them go out and work for it - it would just drive the few players we have away from a career in tennis.

  • Comment number 33.

    The LTA are surely underacheiving. BUT I've gotta question the motivation of the lower-ranked players themselves. Why do they have to wait for LTA to tell them what to do? Go out to the world and learn the game and improve! Surely staying in GB only won't develop anyone as a player. Murray once questioned the motivation of his teammates, telling them to 'at least smash a racquet or something'. Then last year Down Under, some silly yoof player went to a tourno (think it was the AO), arrived at the tennis club without his racquets. Laughable stuff, but GB tennis is getting NOWHERE with this bunch of players. Nowhere.

  • Comment number 34.

    Much has been made here of the privileged social strata of tennis players and that this is a major factor for failure. Is there not a parallel with the sorts of people attracted to golf clubs, or for that matter sailing clubs. Golf is an expensive sport to play, requires relatively good weather, can't be played indoors, is dominated by expensive members' clubs, and has the perception of being governed by crusty old duffers and/or business-minded accountants, yet we still seem to produce several world class players and haven't had to scratch around since the 1930s for a major winner. I would be interested to know any facts and opinions on why two sports that seem to have many similarities produce such different results.

  • Comment number 35.

    Well this question about the LTA goes on and on and on.
    Nothing changes, and what would it take to change the hierarchy at the LTA.

    Yes Heather Watson and Laura Robson are up and coming stars - Watson trains in the USA and Robson has a Dutch coach!

    As a coach myself living and working in Spain, I would like to finish this comment by adding the words of an ex pupil of mine, who was a useful junior, when asked by mysel two days ago - Do you still play tennis back in the Uk? - here is his answer

    "I do like to still play tennis but in the UK tennis seems to be less popular for the majority of local people in our area (apart the Wimbledon 2 weeks). I know the weather doesn't help for such a lot of the time but at the gym I use there are only 2 concrete outside courts and in the dark, wind & rain it never has the appeal as playing when on holiday in the sun. There are of course limited inside courts to use at other venues, but so few people my age don't want to bother playing. Shame!

    I use the gym 5-6 times a week and am also a keen cyclist so both of those keep me fit. Tennis is something I like to do on holiday more and more"

    There you have - this guy is 24!

    regards from the sun

  • Comment number 36.


    I know the weather is not the best for tennis in his country (understatement) but other countries such as Sweden have produced many top players over the years and I sure the weather there is hardly Mediterranean !

  • Comment number 37.

    hctamsinnet makes the comment about weather and although I agree it has a lot to do with it there are many other countries that have similar weather but still perform better than we do (Netherlands and Sweden). Considering that the Netherlands has about a third of our population suggests to me that they are more efficient when it comes to sport than we are and I think this is more to do with how we differ especially a schools level. In the Netherlands most schools do not have great sports facilities due to geographical limitations, so to overcome this, The Dutch school kids usually get half day at least once a week as long as they take part in some properly organised sport. Anyone who has ever been to The Netherlands will comment on the number of kids walking about with hockey sticks etc. Perhaps we should copy countries like the Netherlands as it is obviously a lot better than what we are doing...

  • Comment number 38.

    I live in Lancashire and this year entries were up significantly in our County Championships. You can't just pick one example and say that that is the case across the whole country.

    People talk about players not coming through "the LTA system." I'm not quite sure what this means as it is my understanding that the LTA give funding to players and coaches (including Andy Murray) and don't necessarily coach the players themselves.

    The LTA are in a no-win situation. They could not have given more support to players like Boggo and Parmar but at the end of the day if these players do not have the ability or desire, that is not the LTA's fault.

    If they cut funding to players who aren't going to reach the very top of the game, what will they do with all the money they have?

    Too many people are saying it's about grass-roots, its about schools, its about findoing talented young players. The LTA is supporting tennis clubs, coaches and schools to do all these things.

  • Comment number 39.

    The main problem for players making the transition from junior to senior is that we do not have enough Futures, and more especially, Challenger events in the UK.
    Instead money is spent:
    1. sending one or 2 players on hopeless trips to the far east or wherever chasing 'hard court points'.
    2. Underwriting showpiece grass court events like Queens Club, Eastbourne and Birmingham, which are high profile for the sponsors, but are of NO benefit to British players at this time.

    The Spanish, Germans, French, Central Europeans, and particularly the Italians all schedule Challengers & Futures on around a fortnightly basis (mainly on clay), especially during the first 6 months of the year.
    They then 'flood' these events with their own players, typically around 12 to 16 in say a 32 entry event, as well as providing most of the entries in any associated qualifying event.

    It's no wonder they stack up ranking points, and consistently move the overall playing strength of their player pool onwards and upwards.
    Italy is especially keen on this with Challengers or Futures almost weekly from February onwards - more often than not won by an Italian player.
    It is significant the first of 2 UK challengers, with a significant UK entry (around 8) was won by Dan Evans, with, if I recall correctly, 3 British quarter finalists.

    I would not be surprised if Italy is the next nation to have 10 or 12 male players ranked in the top 100; that appears to be what they're aiming for.
    Meanwhile in the UK our guys are travelling to the US, or the the Far East looking to qualify for obscure hard court events events, and usually failing.
    Most of these trips are financed by the LTA, which strikes me a monumental waste of money.

    Surely the 'European model' is a hundred times more efficient method of player improvement, in terms of overall numbers and quality?

  • Comment number 40.

    Isn't part of the problem the elitism that exists in the game, meaning that opportunities are only available for the selected few, i.e the Henman's of this world, who come from an affluent middle class backgrounds.

    You only have to look at some of the great footballers these Isles have produced to see that a fair proportion of them come from working class backgrounds, such as the Charlton's Best's, Gascoigne's etc.

    If you've had to struggle through life, it makes you work harder and be more determined to achieve, than someone who's been handed things on a plate.

    Something is seriously wrong with the system when the likes of Serbia and Croatia are able to produce consistently better players than us; we should at the very least have a few players in the top 100.

    Another issue is that although we produce some promising junior players, they seem to lose their way on transition to the senior ranks. Let's hope this isn't the case with Robson and Watson.

  • Comment number 41.

    I'm so pleased so many people know all the answers needed to fix British Tennis. It sounds as though people think that the employees of the LTA sit at the National Tennis Centre and think of ways to mess up British Tennis. It was made clear from the start that the processes put in place are aimed at the younger age groups and so it is going to take time to see improvements in performance. Younger players in tennis are in the 8-10 age group and so it will be up to 10 years before these players are coming through into the senior ranks - the only place that matters clearly to readers of this blog. I personally think two junior grand slam winners (both of whom have been helped immensely by the LTA over the last few years) in 18 months is pretty good - how many other countries have that if you take out multiple winners? (I don't actually know, it is a genuine question?)

    on tennis in schools - this is a major initiative being undertaken by the LTA. But they cannot make this change alone. The aim is to put a tennis racket into the hands of every school kid and kits have been developed by teachers - but until the local authorities cooperate then no school can be forced to make tennis happen.

    Change is happening but as usual people have no patience and look for the negative in every story around!! I hope that you are all around in 5-7 years time when the fruits of the work being done now are being understood. Then you can all complain that we only won 1 grand slam last year and we only have 100 players in the top 100...

    oh, and although we are rubbish, hopefully by the weekend we'll have had another two girls win through to the finals in a UK event - securing both their places in the top 100 in the world - taking to 4 the number of girls getting into the top 100 this year in singles, plus 2 in doubles!!!!

  • Comment number 42.

    Regardless of the LTA system, Great Britain should have had the players capable of beating Poland. The rankings show that. However, I think that one of the problem is that John Lloyd does not seem to be inspiring the players.

    This was visible to me at Liverpool and at previous ties with the comparison of the attitude and body language of the two captains during the matches. The Poland captain was out of seat visibly encouraging his players etc.. I didn't see John Lloyd doing much of that.

    There does seem to be a difference in the girls junior system. I hope that Robson and Watson carry on and they appear to have the drive as individuals to be successful. I hope that the LTA don't do anything stupid to push them away from the sport.

    I would agree that most people in this country only think about tennis for 2 weeks of the year. However, I appear to be one of the few dedicated fans who follow tennis all the year round and I am very frustrated with the continuing excuses that come from the LTA.

    In other sports and business, I am sure that various people at the LTA would not still be in a job.

  • Comment number 43.

    The buck stops at the top, and that is Draper, who through his incompetence and neglect has left Britih tennis the laughing stock of the world. To compound matters he has now devalued the Davis Cup by suggesting that Murray does not compete. Drapers position is now untenable and he needs to be removed from his position forthwith.

  • Comment number 44.

    I have two tennis playing son's 12 and 14 and I also run a junior postal tournament each summer. I agree with your observations and wanted to concur with the comments about tournament numbers dropping away. I had 4 U10 girls enter last year and zero this year. For the boys U10 competition I had at least 20 take part last year and only 2 this year. The decline is noticable through the age groups and I fear the tournament will wither away in years to come. A great shame as it's been running each year from the 1970's.
    I'm surprised the LTA suggest they are interested in players in the U14/15 age group. I belive their interest lays only with the youngest age groups those that were there at the start of the latest 5 year plan. I'd even go as far to say that if a player is not in the top 15 for his/her age group - U12, U14, U16 and U18 - the LTA has little interest in their development.
    Only today I saw that the new intake to the rating system those born in 1999 are no longer required to start from the bottom of the rating ladder if they can demonstrate a good tournament history. My 12 year old has worked very hard over the last 2-3 years to reach a rating of 8.1 as he enters the U14 age group. He started from the bottom even though he was able to demonstrate a good tournament history as an U10. As an 8.1 he is only now getting into some of the higher grade regional junior tournaments.
    This doesn't feel right to me and has the potential to skew the junior rating system and may cause even more talented junior players, 12 and above, to turn their back on the sport.

  • Comment number 45.

    @ #18 - Chancedog

    whilst agree that the Captaincy should be examined closely, we cant throw this one against John Lloyd. The Davis Cup has pre set rules for the Sunday schedule of play and it is always the two No1's v each other 1st followed by the 2 No'2 to finish. Whilst this does put a lot of pressure on the No 2 players if it gets that far it also minimises the risk of the wo no1's not getting to face off, and always the 4th match is a deciding match too.

  • Comment number 46.

    I'm not sure it's all the LTA's fault. Nobody is interested in tennis in this country. Why would a middle-class game appeal to a nation of chavvy slobs eating McDonalds and kicking footballs around their council estates?

    Also, slightly as an aside, Davis Cup format needs to be changed. Sport should build to a climax, not have two potentially meaningless matches on the final day that people have paid good money to see.

  • Comment number 47.

    Can we please discuss men's British tennis in general... The young people coming up need someone to inspire them, give them mental strength, find the answers to their problems. The LTA has noone that fits that bill, (certainly not on the men's side) that is now apparent. Why not bring in outsiders, or even coaches from other countries. Why not get outside the box? Where is the dynamism? Andy Murray brought his own but not everyone is able to do that. And even he gets crushed from time to time.....Tim Henman was brilliant but what did we all do to him - talk about what he didn't do.... Sorry John Lloyd, your heart may be in the right place but it's time to move over and let someone in that understands modern tennis, its players and their psychology.... It's not about hitting the ball in the centre of the racket anymore......

  • Comment number 48.

    Very interested by comments from zarrafak, benp28 and markgray64. It probably isn't fair to criticise the LTA from the outside - afterall they are the experts. But the fact that we all do suggests at best their communication of what they are doing and trying to do is poor. The rating system is a nightmare and the need to find ranking points seems all important. My son is scheduled to be in Egypt, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya over the next couple of months - expensive and probably unnecessary - why can't he pick up "easy" points nearer home to kick start his climb up the rankings?

    By the way, for what its worth - I think the weakness is not in technical and physical training, it is in mental conditioning.

  • Comment number 49.

    Just to throw a few figures out there in respect of Zarrafak's comments This year GB will host 16 futures events, 4 challengers, 2 Atps & 1 GS (plus the YEC which doesnt really count) so 23 professional level events.

    As an example Brazil will host 34 futures, 7 Challengers and 1 ATP - 42 events!!

    Whilst a GS is worth a lot, it hardly helps younger players to play matches week in week out. In some regards (other than money) it is probably a negative as it heaps huge pressure on our players every time it rolls rounds, and our guys ranked 200ish are ridiculed in the national press for failing to beat guys in the top 20 etc.

    The LTA's reason for cutting back on a lot of events was that it was giving our players an easy ride to get home points and they should earn them in the tougher environments, all well and good, but everyone else home players are still able to pick up 'easy' home points so it's hardly a fair playing field.

    Futures are easy to count as they are numbered so i'll post a few other countries numbers:

    Argentina 26
    USA 29
    France 20
    Spain 37
    Italy 32

    Spain also have 6 challengers and 3 ATPs and a lot of the futures event have very large qualifying draws of around 64 players, occasionally larger - the competition is encouraged, often in GB you will see many Byes.

  • Comment number 50.

    The LTA will never get it right. It is flawed from top to bottom, run by those who couldn't trying to tell those who will never.

    At the top we have a succesion of old boys network mediocre people rewarding themselves with fat salaries whilst producing nothing.

    At grass roots level money is syphoned off for vets tournaments and other meaningless activities whilst young talent is underfunded.

    A wholesale clearout is what is needed at the LTA, from senior to local level, with money re assigned for developing young players.......

    ... and furthermore a more ruthless approach applied to those young players who fall short of what is required.

  • Comment number 51.

    spondella - that is another great example of people writing with no knowledge of what is actually happening in the sport!! these old boys network employees at the LTA - they don't exist!! A wholesale clear out will achieve setting back progress by another 5 years as all the work done over that period would be rendered meaningless!! that seems to me like a pretty poor idea!! i think you'll also find that the organisation is mostly run by people who have, working with people that want to, supported by those that care. it is clear that you are not one of those so I can only assume you post here just to have a moan.

    interesting from ben dirs - correct, we don't have a great history of success in tennis in this country, and so the reaction when we don't produce a champion is ridiculous - but that shouldn't hold us back from trying to get it right in the future!

    and as an addition, the sports that were identified as ones we have 'got good' at tend to be ones you can teach, rather than inate talent. not to say that our olympic champions are not great athletes, they are, but that they are in sports that you control the outcome - any sport that you can transfer into and win an olympic gold in 4 years clearly has a shorter development time than tennis...

    and to confirm from my previous post - katie and bally have both reached the final in the $75k tournament and so are almost assured a place in the top 100 next week. so we will have 4 players in the top 100 (andy, anne, katie, bally) singles, and 3 in the top 100 doubles (ross, sarah, colin) with ken likely to join him, and jamie on the cusp of regaining his place. so 4 in the top 100 singles, and 4 in the top 100 doubles isn't so bad if you look at the situation a couple of years ago!! with the juniors improving, maybe a positive article on british tennis progress is called for. i won't hold my breath though. jonathan and neil can probably put these achievements in a negative context!!

  • Comment number 52.

    I'm getting increasingly annoyed with the endless blaming that exists in British Tennis. It happening across all levels and things will not improve unless people stop the talking and start taking action. Attitudes are sickeningly one-dimensional and disheartening for those of us who work hard to try to help make a difference in the sport.

    I'm a Schools and Community Tennis Coach in London (yes, we exist...though few and far-between), and I can tell you that it's not rocket science. I love my job and there is nothing in the world I'd rather do...what makes it infuriating are the attitudes of people who are in control of the money (that ultimately fund my job) and even fellow coaches. In the first place, if the funding was actually filtered to the right places...I'd have more qualified coaches coming in with me to more schools to teach the fundamentals of a sport that, one day, the kids might decide they'd actually like to pursue. But alas, I have to do it alone, because not only is such funding limited, but every coach I know would rather work with the 'good kids'. These are the kids that have parents who can afford to pay for coaching, the equipment, the private schooling and the 8 other after-school clubs they do. This has to change...otherwise we are going to continually end up with a massive pool of players who are simply not cut-out to dealing with the pressures of being on the Tour for a myriad of reasons (primarily not having the 'killer instinct').

    The players who are under-achieving and yet continue to get funding from the LTA...?

    Cut their funding, put them on assistant coaching courses and get them to come in to the inner-city schools with me. Support the players who actually deserve the money: those who couldn't afford it in the first place, and who want it more than anyone else out there.

  • Comment number 53.

    Want to why British tennis is so bad... disjointed coaching and the awful middle class "tennis parents" who heap huge pressure on the kids... there is a completely diffrent mentality in France etc.

  • Comment number 54.

    Prince, what is the mentality in France? I agree that heaping pressure on kids doesn't help, but when the parental investment is around £20K a year there has to be some evidence of progress doesn't there?

  • Comment number 55.

    Snobbery's the blocker....

    1. Kids can't get on courts for middle-class professionals doing their week-end doubles matches. These people have no interest in developing youngsters or encouraging youngsters to play.

    2. State schools don't like the sport because it smacks of elitism.

    3. Look at Middle England's attitude towards Andy Murray - they hate him as he's not one of them - it's nothing but appalling snobbery (compare to hapless Henman).

    4. Wimbledon is a horrific advert for the game - old-fashioned, militaristic, courtsying, Henman Hill nonsense - no one under 18 can be turned on by this spectacle.

  • Comment number 56.

    First of, I would re-iterate the problem of cost of Tennis for people. If you want to play football, how much does a football cost? Find a bit of flat(ish?) land and start kicking the ball.

    Tennis does require special courts. These courts needed to be maintained. Also person per area, 4 people max to a court, singles is 2 per court. It is hardly a space efficient sport. Possibly if you look out hiring an indoor football pitch, in total you would pay more cost / area, but cost / person is less.

    Bearing in mind as well if you are serious about tennis at a high level, new racquets every year? certainly restringing every month (or week?) Tennis balls need replacing and tournaments require more travel.

    So the economics is certainly not as easy as some sports.

    With regards to comparisons to Golf, I would simply suggest maybe that no country pumps players through like they may in tennis? With regards to sailing, well, what with the Navy heritage and being an Island, this sport really plays into us and again, other countries might simply not pump as much in to this.

    "1. Kids can't get on courts for middle-class professionals doing their week-end doubles matches. These people have no interest in developing youngsters or encouraging youngsters to play.".
    Perhaps true, but at the same time are you suggesting these people should give up on their hobby to make room for the Juniors? You do need to find a balance.

    "Look at Middle England's attitude towards Andy Murray - they hate him as he's not one of them - it's nothing but appalling snobbery (compare to hapless Henman)."
    I find people hate him because of his early attitude towards England. Other than that it is partly ignorance of the sport as to why he does not win a grand slam, or frustration because he might be the best hope for a while but has not done it in his last probably 1.5 years of being competitive.

    "Wimbledon is a horrific advert for the game - old-fashioned, militaristic, courtsying, Henman Hill nonsense - no one under 18 can be turned on by this spectacle."
    I would have to say this is merely your opinion and not opinions of everyone.

    There is probably less interest in people from England to play tennis, (or much sport for that matter it seems!) However times are changing. Things happen in cycles. What happens is people get complacent, sports goes on a decline and then people start noticing the problem. People work to fix the problem and it picks up, but it needs time.

    The notable changes I have seen from the LTA is that there does seem to be more promotion for tennis singles matches playing - but at the end of the day people have to want to play it.

  • Comment number 57.

    I am hoping that someone can tell me the need to bash Tim Henman. He didn't come up with the name Henman Hill, he did carry the weight of the British media for the duration of his career, and without any major weapons he reached the top five players in the world and multiple grand slam semi finals.

    As regards Murray, my reasons for disliking him during the early part of his career were down to his attitude, obviously over the past couple of years this has improved dramatically and so now it is a vastly better experience to watch him play.

    With regards to the state of British tennis. I would have to agree with the previous statements that there is a vast pool of alternative sports, activities, and careers for children to grow into. Would you really want to see us having the top ten tennis players in the world if at the same time the number of medical staff, teachers, soldiers etc.. were to decrease. Support those who enjoy playing the game enough to attempt to make a career of it.

    Lastly, I am a geologist, if I make it to the top thousand in my chosen career path it would be beyond my wildest dreams. Realism is always a nice touch.

  • Comment number 58.

    I listened carefully to the interview with Roger Draper following the Poland Davis Cup tie defeat and Roger Draper stressed that the building process is under way with a ten year plan. Having listened to him name various players who are 'rising up the ranks', I would like to ask why we didn't have one boy in the under 18 boys singles with a 64 draw at the recent US Open. Surely with 2012 just around the corner where is our Olympic success going to come from, not to mention future Grand Slams?

  • Comment number 59.

    gbtennisfan, you've just debunked the whole "Draper's Ten Year Plan" file.

    Its flawed and it can not work. The proof is in what you just highlighted, that we have no junior male players competing at the Slams.

    Just how Draper intends to materialize these players is a mystery, and as with all mysteries, the answer is simple, its a blind.

    If there was a ten year plan (updated every five years to a new ten year) we would be able to keep up tabs with whoever was progressing through the system and see the fruition of these youngsters at competitions. Sadly, there are not enough names to justify Drapers prognostications.

    I cant see Britain ever having a decent Davis Cup any more unless several people with a GB passport from another nation come to live here, who can play decent tennis. Imported pro's maybe be one avenue of induction, but the LTA's road is bumpy, full of holes and is downhill for the foreseeable future.

  • Comment number 60.

    Totally agree with BenDirs.

    This situation with UK tennis, is not the fault of the LTA, it is not the fault of any 'system', and it is certainly not the fault of our current top players. It is the fault of.... nobody.

    Simple fact : Tennis is not as popular here as it is in other countries, and it may never be... so why even worry about our success or failure. Our best players want to succeed so badly, I'm sure it hurts, more than it hurts any of us. The fact that they may get consistently beaten is not shameful. No more shameful than my car being slower than a Porsche... it's not from lack of desire / training / motivation. It's statistics. There are countries smaller than ours, yet with a larger proportion of people who love playing tennis, and therefore more who are very very good at it.

    When I come to work during any of the Grand Slams outside of Wimbledon, I am itching to talk about the matches - almost no-one gives a toss, and these are sporty people.

    If we didn't have Wimbledon in this country, this would not even be a debate.

    p.s. My club as with many others I know still has a couple of snooty members, but they are a dying breed. The junior coaching systems are great, and affordable. Even Roger Draper made an appearance when we had new courts built to show his face and support. He seemed encouraging, and to be doing the right thing, and I suppose he made the effort, surely that says something.

  • Comment number 61.

    Whilst not trying to defend Draper, the mens game bar Murray seems to have gone backwards these past 3/4 years a lot of this was due to out top players retiring/playing doubles only or getting injured. But on the other hand the womens game in this country has moved into another league with now 3 players inside the top 100. Yes its nothing to sing and dance about but considering where we have been for the past 15-20 years on the womens side that is a major advancement forward. And with some very promising juniors, the future looks bright.

    On the junior boys side, yes this year we didn't have much representation in the boys GS but 1991 was not a good year talent wise in the UK. 1992 and 1993 are much better so next year expect 5/6 in each GS. We are not yet at the level of France/Spain or the US even who seem to produce 2/3 top 10/20 juniors every year.

    On the Davies cup thing i also agree that Andy such not make himself available in 2010. I think we would play 3 ties? without him, if we win them all. That would be a great chance to find a #2 for Andy in the higher groups. And alos give experience to the younger lads. Dan Evans is a good player but got thrown in at the deep end with a kind of ' go on, do it' attitude and he froze. Maybe in the lower levels he can shine and learn how to play in these kind of events.

  • Comment number 62.

    I always enjoy watching the continuous rounds of handwringing, deep frowns and mock turtle like melancholy when the subject of the state of British tennis drags its decaying carcass through the media. It never fails to perplex me how the studious observers of game seem to miss the obvious. Allow me to give you all some cause for optimism. Yes it is possible that some day a British tennis player will win a major slam. The miraculous does happen! Outrageous luck and inexplicable flukes do occur. There are events that defy all rational explanation, a British success would definitely be one of them but I fear that it would also signal the arrival of the Apocalypse, four horsemen,disease, pestilence etc.
    I think the LTA are doing a wonderful job of sharing out all that lovely money between their fellow board members and friends.The LTA are leading us through this recession into a new golden age with their concept of redistributive justice, taking tax riches to give to the privileged, the more privileged and the slightly less privileged. What egalitarian zeal!
    So why do the British produce so few players of quality and none with the sufficent matchplay temperament? Well if picking up a tennis racket is not going to transform your life and the life of your family economically and socially then what is really driving British players forward? If your father is a stockbroker and your mother is a barrister and you are accustomed to opulent leafy comfortable surroundings, other than a kind of existential angst, losing matters very little to you.
    Here is a small anecdote when I was twelve, that was many many years ago just after the number twelve was invented, I played a boy in my year for the honour of representing the school. I thrashed him one and love. His parents reacted like all pushy meddling middle class parents by phoning the school and demanding his inclusion on the team, paying for tennis lessons and hiring a coach. I was called to the Headmasters' room, received a shamefaced apology and was removed from the team. He eventually represented the County. The squeaky wheel does get the oil especially if the parents are oilier than thou.
    If the LTA were actually interested in producing great players, they would open tennis academies in poor and deprived areas, cherry pick the talented and give parents an allowance to encourage them to keep their children there. Of course the thought of such a scheme has never spoiled the cherubic countenance of the good people of the LTA.

  • Comment number 63.


    "I find people hate him because of his early attitude towards England."

    You clearly don't read much or just read rubbish. The truth of that story is well known and has nothing in common with your quote. Do your research airhead.

  • Comment number 64.

    To quote veraversus:

    "If the LTA were actually interested in producing great players, they would open tennis academies in poor and deprived areas, cherry pick the talented and give parents an allowance to encourage them to keep their children there. Of course the thought of such a scheme has never spoiled the cherubic countenance of the good people of the LTA."

    They sort of do. I work in one. Though I don't work with the 'good players' I go to local state primary schools and teach tennis in their P.E lessons (come rain or shine). The kids love it, and I accept that most of them will never take up tennis outside of what's offered in their school (which is free for them). Already, in the first few weeks of term, I've seen lots of kids with real attitudes show huge potential to be good players. But what am I bringing these kids into? A journey through tennis that sees them struggle to afford court/coaching/equipment costs and beg to get funding that will give them the opportunity to be the best they can be? The LTA need to commit to helping players that haven't got the money all the way through this journey, from the moment they pick up their racket to the moment they can afford to fund themselves.

    The simple fact is that tennis costs far too much in this country, at every level. Being half Spanish, I see what it's like over there. Courts are free, coaching is cheap (their salaries are paid by local authorities). Where the weather isn't that great up north, there are 'bubbles' or people go indoors and play indoor sports (that have transferable skills to tennis). The simple fact that the weather isn't always perfect for tennis in the UK, should justify outdoor courts being free or just cover them all.

    Please just make the sport accessible to EVERYONE at long last.

  • Comment number 65.

    I believe we as a Tennis Nation are making significant mistakes. Firstly It was crazy to pick a 19 year old to play key Davis Cup rubbers against Poland. There was no way he would be mature or experienced enough on such a tense occasion. We needed someone around 25 / 26 years old, with some mental strength. Secondly the LTA need to get some things fixed, and fast! Mens Tennis needs relooking at, because the strength in depth after Andy Murray is woeful. We still seem to have a problem with converting promising young juniors into good and improving adult players at top level. And in my experience, on a more grass roots level, the links with schools and the tournaments and ranking systems need rethinking. As someone says here, when the number of juniors playing meaningful competitive tennis around the country seems to be declining and junior tournaments are getting cancelled, then warning bells need to start ringing at the LTA and loudly! There are undoubtedly good clubs and High Performance Centres round the country doing good things, but I believe there is much more the LTA could be doing to help these and other clubs. My hope for the future of British tennis lies with Laura Robson and Heather Watson now, but with the amount of money the LTA has available to invest, we need so much more than this.

  • Comment number 66.

    More strawberries and cream anyone?

  • Comment number 67.

    When I was a junior player all I wanted to do was play Tennis. However, the tennis club that I was a member of made it extremely difficult for us to do this. For a start adults had 1 hr of court time compared to 30 minutes for the juniors. I had to wear white and if I didn't then I could not play. Adult members had priority over junior members which meant they could kick them off the court if they wanted too. Also, I had to pay for the courts each and every time I wanted to play. At £10/hr for floodlight courts we could not afford to pay £50 -80 /day. In the end, the club expelled us because we used to sneak in and play during the night when there was no one else playing.

    If I had one answer to why British Tennis is such a failure it is because most clubs make it extremely difficult for children (of all social classes) to take up the sport and continue to improve.

  • Comment number 68.

    Let's give credit where credit is due; The girls have done well, and Andy Murray is flying our (maybe just his own) flag. Let's also give credit to every single person with an ATP or WTA ranking. Not many people understand just how difficult that is to acheive. People say that someone in the 300's is a failure. That disgusts me. Who is the 300th best footballer in the world? I bet he is making a hell of a lot of money, and I bet people say he is fantastic. Give respect to all atheltes, not just our "Hero's".

    Now, I understand that the Davis Cup loss is bad, I agree, but I believe that the UK can be back on form if they can add more aspects to the plans.

    I play college tennis and each summer I come home there seems to be less and less tournaments. We don't need just Futures and Challengers, we need tournaments to get every ready for those. What is happening to the British Tour? There needs to be tournaments every week within each region for the standard of tennis to improve. If a club wants to have LTA recognition, then they should have to hold a money tournament at least once a year. Not every every club can put up some big money to bring in every player, but the more tournaments offered will mean more people playing. And when you play for something more than just yourself, like money for example, then you soon learn how to cope with the pressure from a younger age. You're going to say "we don't have a enough players to fill the spots in the tournaments". Let's say BLTC offers 500 and you get a share from the quarterfinals to the winner, you will find that many european players will travel around the region for a month or so, looking to earn some money. Very quickly you will see that juniors will be playing these, earning valuable experience against a huge variety of players.

    This will not only help with the ammount of matches that you can play, but also the cost of tennis. Some of the biggest costs in tennis are travel, hotels and food, so if there are a huge increase in tournaments around the region, you can stay at home every night saving money.

    One thing that would need adressing is Ametuerism. To play college tennis in the US you have to be considered an Ametuer. Hundreds of juniors do this every year. They can claim expenses on the week and sign a form from the tournament director.

    Something liek this is very simple and has been used in other countries. France and Spain have programs similar to this, try and tell me that they aren't doing something right.

    This program probably won't be ready in time for me, but let's not let tennis slip away from us. Let's eat sleep and breathe tennis.

  • Comment number 69.

    I have had enough! Reading the postings of those that defend the LTA and the comment about not being inside so you have no idea. Well let's get one thing straight, I don't care about tennis but I love sport and even more I love business and continuous improvement programmes. I cry with frustration listening on how the LTA operate, are they in the real world? Cut their budgets I say and then they may be close to running a lean and efficient organising. I walk the offices of the LTA and I hear one person say "who wouldn't want to work in an organisation like this" as they wave there arms indicating the beautiful surroundings and smart offices. Me for one, no thanks! I would rather work in a garage full of like people all working off each other to create the next best thing (like Google). Collaboration, Synergy, Facilitation, Energy this is what comes from people all working in an environment that they feel safe to express their views with a common goal in mind. Answer this one question please... How can you rewrite a coach education course when you haven't even step foot in a centre and seen the old course being delivered. These people would not last 5 mins in the real business world where you need to deliver the best. You maybe responsible for the deliver but my god you collaborate, hold respect and LISTEN! The LTA are not short of money so why bother delivering we won't go bankrupt and if I keep quiet, be polite to everyone and say the right things I can take my pay cheque home every month and work in beautiful surrounding, what more do I want...

  • Comment number 70.

    I completely agree. How can you hope for one moment to improve the situation when no one in authority will stand up and condemn the standard of British tennis? The BBC should also stop televising the Davis cup and focus its funds on bringing a more inspiring level of tennis to terrestrial television.
    We should also use funds to send talented youngsters abroad to train in Spain or the US and have no involvement in the LTA at all. That's what Andy Murray did and his attitude and ability are a testament to being far away from the mediocrity and self-glorification of the LTA.

  • Comment number 71.

    Junior Tennis is where they should really invest their time and money. My sons play tennis twice a week in an ace squad,it is expensive even after a little help from the LTA its still costs about £250 per term and then you have to pay for going to each tournament, trying to practice anywhere will cost to hire the courts. He has a talent but to help nuture that it cost too much compared to other sports. The LTA are not truly committed to getting the grassroots established. The BBC also need to have more tennis on TV rather than just Wimbeldon,Davis Cup and French open.They only show highlights if we have a player in the second round. We will however still encourage and help to see if he can become a world class tennis player that is his ambition.

  • Comment number 72.

    A one word reply to #30........
    Also, much play has been made of the old elitist sport tag. I'm only guessing, but I think you will find that tennis in Argentina is not easily available to the poor kids of Buenos Aires, yet they have produced a string of tennis greats. Not to mention Switzerland and the up and coming Italians (are they taking their players from the slums of Naples?) I would like to know of any country where tennis is NOT a middle class sport even though some individuals (eg the Williams sisters) who buck the trend. We currently have the dubious honour of holding the most shameful statistic in all men's world sport : a rich, developed country whose last grand slam title was over 70 years ago. Even if Murray finally gets to end that run, who's to say that we wouldn't go for decades after he retires for another winner? I am sick of hearing, as I have for at least twenty years now, that there are many promising juniors and things are beginning to look up. We've heard the story about Ivanovic practising in a disused swimming pool, so it's not just about facilities, it's about WILL. Maybe that's something that is congenitally lacking in us as a tennis playing nation. Well, it seems to be a theory as good as any other!
    And finally, yes Andy, ditch this sorry bunch. They don't deserve you. Don't even consider rejoining until we have one other player in the top 50 and one more in the top hundred. Fat chance of that.

  • Comment number 73.

    Excuse me quoting: "We currently have the dubious honour of holding the most shameful statistic in all men's world sport : a rich, developed country whose last grand slam title was over 70 years ago"

    Why is it shameful for a country which excels in many sports not to excel in others? Thats quite normal across the world. I don't recall ever meeting anyone from another country, who feels I should apologise for my nation not producing a tennis champion.

    Likewise, I don't feel like patting every Swiss person on the back because of Roger Federer.

    Nobody owes us a trophy, and don't you think they may actually want it more than you? Don't blame our players for being the best they can be.

    As wonderful as many French players are at the moment, do you think they should feel ashamed? Name a French major winner from the last 20 odd years, and not too many winners in the last 40. The fact that they haven't with their talent, shows exactly how difficult it is.

    Do people get angry when our badminton / squash / basketball players don't win lots? No, and why should they? We normally feel good luck to them all for doing as well as they do.

    People expect too much just because of Wimbledon.

    Now that tournament really is something we can all feel very very proud of, but it also why people get this topic out of proportion.

    Tennis is not this nation's favourite sport. That is fact.

  • Comment number 74.

    I'm not sure I agree with this entirely.
    The LTA have wider responsibilities than the top of the game, so mollycoddling people through to the point where they win trophies and have a nice easy life should not be their primary objective in my view.

    I would like to see the LTA judged on the state of tennis in the lower orders. How many talented youngsters are coming through? Not what they ultimately achieve, since after all , it's their life so if they cannot turn talent and assistance into something like a fully-realised potential that is the fault of the players, not the LTA.

    Also there is a whole country of people who would like to play tennis recreationally and it's not easy. There are few tennis clubs other than David Lloyds which is ludicrously expensive and forces you to join a gym that I won't use in order to play tennis (stupid excuse is that they would have to install turnstiles at the gym... so... do it then).

    Making the game available to all should be their main priority and I think they are failing badly at that. To my mind, the most worrying part of your article was the drop in entries for childrens' competitions.

    Well, to enter they have to be able to play tennis, and to do that they have to be able to find somewhere to do it. Could that be the reason?

    The bottom line is that a strategy that focuses on the elite has been shown to be a flawed approach time and again. Get the grass roots working, give people the opportunity to play and offer support/coaching to those who want it. The rest will take care of itself. Once you get to a certain standard it is abot the individual, not the tennis association.

  • Comment number 75.

    Ah the Wimbers-LTA axis!

    As someone pointed out earlier, the LTA board is conspicuously composed of people of one particular ethnic and social-demographic background, and is jam-full of chartered accountants, rather than tennis people. The only time I can remember them taking any real stand on anything of late was when they unleashed their fury on a couple of tennis-playing kids for eating some pizza and posting some pics on the internet. They seem more interested in "keeping up appearances" and "not rocking the boat" (those excellent, time-honoured British virtues!) than actual success at tennis.

    In fact, they are more interested in knocking back the champers and smoked salmon if you ask me, and until the Government steps in with the axe & calls time on their little social club, we can expect more of the same comfortable mediocrity in the future.

  • Comment number 76.

    Hi Jonathan,

    A good summary of the "dire straits" of British Tennis. Whatever you say about the reasons for our continued poor performance, why is that some countries with little or no resources manage to produce world class players.

    The situation has been somewhat smoke screened over the last ten or more years by having one really good world class player available to aid the cause.

    Without Henman or Murray god only knows what level we would have played at.

    The reality is a bit like the economic situation during the same period.

    A lot of money thrown at people who do not have the ability or desire to produce a return. This includes not only the players but the administrators as well.

    Under performance by all of them. In a non sporting environment and subject to an annual review of what they had achieved, they would have all have been sacked.

    Jonathan makes reference to the reduction in juniors coming into tennis -not exactly a "no brainer". People want to be successful - who as a youngster would think of tennis as a route to success!

    More than likely they see the achievements of Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and the other GB cyclists and think on your bike might be the way to achieve things.

    Ultimately it comes down to hunger - none of the current players or officials have desire for it - all far too comfortable in their own little words.

    No excuses - they are all under achievers

    time will tell but no finger crossing of GB reaching the upper heights

    Fingers crossed that we could get 2 or 3 in the top 100 - the girls seem to be showing the way - where are the boys to follow their example.


  • Comment number 77.

    Send more hopefuls to training camps in Spain or Russia. Or get them a Spanish or Russian doctor.


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