You're losers - and we will use our cash on kids, LTA tell our flops


Last updated at 00:59 28 June 2007

British tennis flops were last night

ordered to shape up or risk losing support

from the Lawn Tennis Association. Paul Annacone, head coach at the LTA, said negative

attitudes among the top professionals, all but

two of whom were eliminated in the first round at

Wimbledon, could lead to resources being shifted

towards juniors

Annacone warned: 'This is Wimbledon

and if you are a professional athlete and confronted

with adversity it's about accepting the challenge. If

you can't, it's better off doing something else.'

Meanwhile, the rain allowed Tim Henman just

two games against Feliciano Lopez and they will

resume today at 1-1. Kate O'Brien, the last remaining

British woman, takes on Michaella Krajicek.

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Britain's belly-aching

first-round losers have

been warned their

funding may be

slashed in the wake of

the latest Wimbledon rout.

Their Lawn Tennis Association

paymasters are ready to skip a

generation and focus resources on

younger players instead.

The opening salvoes of the

Championships have brought even

more embarrassment than usual to

the LTA, with only Tim Henman

and Kate O'Brien winning a singles


But the response from the

authorities this time has been less a

consolatory arm around the shoulder

and more an instruction that

the players should look at themselves

long and hard in the mirror.

It has been a dismal few days for

the sport in Britain, with the annual

blame game spiced up by the suspension of Davis Cup coach

Peter Lundgren for being worse for

wear when addressing a training

conference last weekend.

His subsequent absence from the

matches of his two specific charges,

Alex Bogdanovic and Josh Goodall,

were cited by them as reasons for

underperforming in straight-sets


Alex Bogdanovic

The LTA's outspoken chief executive

Roger Draper has decided

attack is the best form of defence,

and yesterday there was also little

sympathy from the mild-mannered

figure of Paul Annacone, Tim Henman's

coach and the governing

body's head coach of men's tennis.

Annacone said: "This is Wimbledon

and if you are a professional

athlete and confronted with adversity

then it's about accepting the

challenge that's put in front of you.

"You can hand the blame over in

order to deal with it or make excuses, but in my mind it's about

competing as best you can and if

you can't do that you're better off

doing something else."

Annacone, the former world No 12,

stopped short of threatening totally

to cut crucial financial and training

support for what looks like a lost

generation but emphasised that

there could be a shift of resources.

He said: 'We want to get the best

out of the guys in their twenties who

are ranked outside the top 100 but

we have got to look at how we

manage the coaching staff.

"The fact is that, realistically, I can

have a much greater impact on the

promising 14-year-olds we have

than I can on somebody who is 23.

We might have to look at how we

spread things. It could be 80-20 to

the younger ones, or maybe 90-10.

The problem is that Wimbledon is

right now and we all want winners,

but there may have to be some

patience shown."

Paul Hutchins, head of British

men's tennis, was also upset that

Goodall had publicly blamed

Lundgren's suspension for his

defeat against Feliciano Lopez.

Hutchins said: "There is this blame

culture going around British tennis

and there are certain people who

love to blame the LTA. I'm getting

pretty tired of it, of people thinking

they expect the LTA to be their

lifeblood. They expect the LTA to

pay for too many things and they

expect the LTA to do too many


"However, it was Josh who didn't

go to see Peter at all at Queen's

Club when Peter wanted him to

come there and practise and train,

and Josh and I have had a few ups

and downs recently.

"Not only with Josh — but we can't

start blaming other things for the


Among long-term observers of

British tennis the eyes roll when one

hears mention of promising

14-year-olds for they seem to be a

perpetually promising group in the

'jam tomorrow' world of the LTA.

Annacone is aware of that but

insists there are around five boys of

that age with the basic talent to

make it — and a handful of girls as


To try to maximise that talent the

LTA used to devise vague five-year

plans that were about as much use

as those employed in the former

Soviet Union to build tractors.

The broad strategy now revolves

around the controversial £40million

National Tennis Centre at

Roehampton which is being staffed

by some of the best — and most

expensive — coaches in the world


The trouble at the moment is that

it looks like the best university in

the world but one that has almost

no students of any calibre to fill it.

Draper himself voted against its

construction when he was at the

LTA prior to leaving for Sport

England and coming back again.

But having seen it go ahead anyway,

he has opted to fill it with highly

paid Belgians, Swedes, Americans,

Canadians and even a few Brits to

try to stop the best teenage players

dropping into the usual black hole

once they leave the juniors.

In fairness, the atmosphere there

is much more positive than it was in

the previous drab offices at Queen's

Club, which seemed to be peopled

largely by Sloanettes looking for a

suitable spouse.

So repeated have been the failures

of the LTA that it is difficult not to

be cynical about how it will work,

but the new regime deserves to be

given a chance to turn things


With his self-confident manner,

Draper, an Olympic standard namedropper,

is himself something of a

target but should be commended

for his determination at least to

shake up the British system.

His idea of tackling clubs that do

not promote junior tennis by

stripping them of their Wimbledon

ticket allocation is a particularly

good one.

In the meantime, these may be

worrying times for the British alsorans

in the 100s, 200s and 300s.

One can only hope a way is found

to harness the genuine ability in

Goodall and the especially gifted

Bogdanovic, otherwise there is the

danger of throwing the baby out

with the bathwater.

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