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Friday, 23 June, 2000, 20:13 GMT 21:13 UK
Hagelauer calls for revolution
Patrice Hagelauer
Hagelauer is hoping to reinvent British tennis
British fans have been spoiled for success at Wimbledon in the last five years with both Greg Rusedski and Tim Henman regularly reaching the final stages.

But take those two away and the numbers coming through from the junior ranks have been depressingly low, especially among the women.

Last year, the sport's governing body in Britain, the Lawn Tennis Association, employed Frenchman Patrice Hagelauer as performance director to put that situation right.

In an exclusive interview with BBC Sport Online, he described the change needed as "a revolution".

Critics

Hagelauer's appointment came not before time, critics would say.

Every year Wimbledon gives the LTA a huge chunk of the profits from the Championships for the development of the game.

Last year it was more than £30m, making the LTA one of the richest national tennis associations in the world.



The eventual aim is to get significant numbers in the top 100

Patrice Hagelauer

Hagelauer's credentials were impeccable.

As the leading coach in his own country he oversaw the spectacular rise of tennis in France, where homegrown players won 24 championships during his reign and the Davis Cup twice.

There are five of his former charges seeded in singles for Wimbledon, more than any other country except the United States.

Hagelauer's philosophy is simple. Encourage more children to play the game. Then there will be more of them going through the structure Hagelauer has set up that eventually leads to the professional game.

Roadshow

He explained: "We had a roadshow last year to identify the talents between 10 and 13 years old. We found about 130 children in the whole country. This is far from enough.

"I organised a similar programme in France in 1989 and found three times as many players.

"This is my main goal. Let's increase the standard of these players and let¿s increase the numbers.

"Everything else is dependant on that. The more players we have and the better they are, the better chance they have of eventually reaching the top 100."


Tim Henman
Henman is Britain's No 1
But that is easier said than done. However much work is done in schools, the co-operation of the country's 2,600 tennis clubs is essential.

In practice, this means them giving their valuable indoor court time to their juniors rather than the more profitable adult social players.

Hagelauer added: "This is where I will be judging myself. If, during the next two or three years, clubs are not really developing their junior programme that means I will have no chance to increase the number of players that we have at a higher level.

"The eventual aim is to get significant numbers in the top 100.

Standard

"The more players you have there, the more competition you have between them. And that raises the standard of the player.

"But do the clubs want to change their culture? Do they want to provide 20 or 25% of their courts at the right times, namely at the end of the school day?

"It is a question of desire. Financial help is available from the LTA, but it is down to clubs wanting to do it.



The easiest thing in the world to do is criticise

Patrice Hagelauer

"This is the case in all other countries. Most of the time the revolution happened 20 years ago. All the clubs have junior programmes."

The LTA has taken its fair share of criticism for the lack of British success, but Hagelauer is quick to leap to the association's defence.

"The easiest thing in the world to do is criticise," he said. "The answer I make to people who criticise the LTA, those who say we have not been producing players and so on, is very simple. 'What do you do for British tennis? In your club, what do you do?'

"Do these people put pressure on the committee of the club so they can organise junior programmes? Who else is going to create junior programmes if it is not done in clubs?

"I am not in the same position as football managers like Arsene Wenger or Gerard Houllier, who can just buy somebody from abroad.


Greg Rusedski
Rusedski will be going for glory at Wimbledon
"In my work, I can only work with the elite. I cannot work with 10,000 junior players all around the country.

"They are in clubs. As the LTA, you pick the best players and you have an organisation and coaches to make them better.

"But if they are not there in junior programmes in clubs around the country, you have a problem."

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See also:

19 Jun 00 | Wimbledon2000
Junior champion comes of age
22 Jun 00 | Wimbledon2000
Where has the magic gone?
23 Jun 00 | Tennis
Parmar ousted by Black
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