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Friday, 13 July, 2001, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
LTA aims to reap Wimbledon dividend
The annual frenzy of Wimbledon may be over for another year, but the work of the Lawn Tennis Association has just begun.
The Henmania and Goran-fever that gripped the nation will have prompted children across the country to visit their local tennis courts for the first time.
But it will be the task of the sport's ruling body in this country to ensure these youngsters stay interested long enough to give British tennis a rosy future.
The LTA's strategy is two-fold: getting more players involved and making British tennis clubs more competitive.
"It's our job to make sure that those kids aren't just playing for two weeks after Wimbledon, but for 52 weeks of the year," said LTA director of development Roger Draper.
The LTA has been developing the game at grass-roots level, getting local clubs to encourage new young people.
It is determined to make the sport as fun as possible for youngsters by setting up mini-tennis programmes all over the country.
It has started an inner-city initiative in the London borough of Hackney, with the help of former England footballer Ian Wright, which is attracting interest from other cities around Britain.
It must have been music to the LTA's ears when new champion Goran Ivanisevic offered his services to help coach British youngsters.
"Obviously Goran is going to have a busy year as Wimbledon champion," explained Draper.
"But once he stops partying, we'll sit down with him and see if he'll give a hand and promote tennis."
The ruling body is certainly not taking the Croatian's word as definite though, especially as similar offers from the Williams sisters failed to materialise after last year's Wimbledon.
The LTA's performance director Patrice Hagelauer hopes that the LTA will be able to capitalise on the unique aspects of this year's event.
He told BBC Sport Online: "There was an amazing spirit among the people at Wimbledon this year. It was very, very different in terms of atmosphere.
"Ivanisevic's win was the best thing that could have happened to British tennis apart from a victory for Tim or Greg [Rusedski]. It creates dreams for children to become tennis players."
Hagelauer has launched the LTA's Club Vision programme to get clubs to open up their facilities to all.
The Frenchman expects that 75 clubs will have signed up by the end of the year and hopes that at least doubles next year.
But he mentions by way of comparison that out of 1,000 clubs in Switzerland, 800 have dedicated junior programmes.
He adds: "We need to open the doors that are so often closed in clubs. We have specific programmes but we need to have competitiveness on a very large scale.
"Over 90% of clubs have developed a leisure culture. The culture of these clubs must change if we are to have any chance of developing great players.
"Do we want better performance and champions, or do we want social and leisure tennis? I don't want to be the leisure director."
"I have the feeling that things are ready to change and people believe that this is the right way forward."
But while the LTA benefits from a generous share of Wimbledon's profits for funding, Hagelauer says this pales into insignificance compared to the sums invested by governments and municipal authorities in other countries.
There are about 400 players taking part in the LTA's Futures programme aimed at developing young players, but Hagelauer says there needs to be two or three times as many players.
"We can't do anything if the clubs don't want to change. In Spain and Sweden, children regard their tennis club as a second home; here they are seen as a noisy distraction. " Hagelauer says.
"I have no magic wand to create champions. That comes from having bigger numbers at the base. To get more champions at the top, you need more champions at the bottom."
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