THE CONTINUED MESS WITH BRITISH TENNIS
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse for British tennis, they do. In fact the situation has become so comical even the genius minds of the Monty Python crew would have been hard-pressed to come up with this.
Carry On Tennis, it should be called.
“Great Britain suffer humiliating Davis Cup defeat” scream the BBC.
“Dan Evans defeat brings fresh Davis Cup despair for Britain” moans The Guardian.
Yes, it is that time again. Very much like the hangover of all hangovers, that sinking feeling when the words “Great Britain” and “Davis Cup tie” have been the main event of the weekend is slamming around our skulls like the feeling of dread at a week ahead of working 15-hour shifts shoveling doggy doodoos.
Which great tennis nation have we lost to this time? Oh the mighty….Lithuania?!
Yes, a nation with only three world-ranked tennis players. A team of teenagers running around pumping the air celebrating the greatest victory in their history like they had just brought world peace.
The Lithuanian Tennis Association has an annual budget of £95,000 compared to the £25,000,000 continually squandered by the Lawn Tennis Association. After all, there are only 173 players our Lithuanian counterparts have to cater for.
You get the picture. David has once more cast his stone and Goliath has hit the deck quicker than Cristiano Ronaldo in a gust of wind.
You will all have read the doom and gloom stories about the matches and I would rather not subject any Brits reading this to any more of those. But what of the fallout?
LTA Chief Executive Roger Draper claimed in the 2009 Tennis Annual produced by the association that he had enjoyed the progress of British tennis over the past three years. This supposed progress has seen our national side drop through the tiers like an elephant strapped to a boulder in the Pacific Ocean.
Now we must face Turkey, who lost to Ireland, in a relegation playoff to avoid sinking to the Europe/Africa Zone Group III in July – the lowest tier of the competition.
Captain John Lloyd has now become the first British Davis Cup captain EVER to oversee five successive defeats. He has said he is “devastated” by the defeat.
“They don’t have as many players to pick from as we do but their players are good,” Lloyd told the BBC.
“We obviously didn’t have our number one playing, and that was certainly an evening-out point. It was a 50/50 sort of match before the start, and they were the better team.”
Woah, woah, woah. What you are saying Mr. Lloyd is that even with Andy Murray playing a nation such as ourselves is only just better than Lithuania and without him we are only as good as a side whose top player is ranked 195 in the ATP World rankings. Lord help us.
Mr. Draper has released a statement on the defeat:
“I share the deep disappointment and frustration at this result. Five defeats in a row is unacceptable.
“So I have asked the LTA Player Director, Steven Martens, to review last week’s performance and result, and report back to me and the LTA Main Board as soon as possible.
That review needs to be swift and decisive as it is clear some real improvements need to be made.”
That’s not even edited. That is the entire statement.
Fingers, though, are already being pointed. Former captain David Lloyd (brother of John) has demanded Draper step down to allow British tennis to recover. Draper’s decision to encourage British No. 1 Andy Murray not to compete in such a lowly tier was a particular stickler for Lloyd.
“”Roger is wrong endorsing the fact that Andy shouldn’t have played. That was a bad call,” he seethed in an interview with the BBC. “I would try and encourage him to play and give something back to the game.
“Where are the male players that the LTA has actually produced? Zero. That’s the bottom line. How do you keep your job if you are failing? I think Roger should walk. I don’t see it getting better.”
“He has missed every target he’s ever set,” added Andy Murray’s former coach Mark Petchey in an interview with Sky Sports News.
“What’s happened with the Davis Cup proves he’s wrong. His import of high-price foreign coaches, Brad Gilbert etc, has failed. The people at the LTA can’t sit on their hands and do nothing. They have to say ‘Your vision of the sport was wrong and you need to go.’”
But how can British tennis improve? Would culling the top man bring an improvement in fortunes? Well, Petchey certainly had ideas about how things could be changed for the better.
“The moment that we built the National Tennis Centre I feared for British tennis in a big way. What we needed right then was 30 centres around the country to get a catchment area from every region, every county.
“If you’re playing in Scotland for example, trying to get to a tennis centre with decent courts etc. is impossible. This money needs to be invested around the country, it’s that simple.”
That simple, eh? Fancy a new job as Chief Executive at the LTA Mr. Petchey?