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Monday, 10 February, 2003, 09:50 GMT
LTA needs to take risks

The British team held their heads relatively high when they left the Sydney International Tennis centre.

Alex Bogdanovic signed hundreds of autographs, the 200 or so British supporters enjoyed themselves with their songs from the stands, even captain Roger Taylor danced on court after Britain had lost the doubles.

All very jolly but, ultimately, Britain lost the tie and lost it badly.

It may have been what everyone predicted but shouldn't the team have been collectively "gutted" (to quote the admirably honest Miles Maclagan after the doubles)?

If British tennis, and sport for that matter, is to progress on a competitive level, surely this whole culture of looking for positives from a defeat has to change.

Of course there were positives: Bogdanovic's all-round game, Alan Mackin's determination, Maclagan's guts in holding serve for the fourth set in the doubles.

Tim Henman
Henman admits the future of British tennis is bleak

But why should we only concentrate on those? The negatives are surely worth contemplating.

For instance: the lack of faith in the highest ranked player in the squad to play singles (Arvind Parmar), the worrying decline of Bogdanovic's stamina after his brilliant first set effort against Hewitt.

Most fundamentally, however, the horrendous lack of depth in British tennis, exposed by this tie.

Tim Henman appears horrified at how his time in the top ten of the men's game has failed to inspire others and he is right.

What on earth should we expect once Henman and Rusedski have retired?

Risks need to be taken. Gambles, like that made by Roger Taylor to give two debutants the opening day singles, need to happen more often.

The money has been invested, the infrastructure appears in place, the LTA seem relatively happy with their work in promoting and developing the sport.

But there are key questions: what is there to show for that investment? Why should we continue to "wait and see" if recent changes have an effect in the future?

We could wait forever and things may never change.

Alex Bogdanovic
Bogdanovic deserves the full backing of the LTA

Here are two gambles the LTA could take right now.

Firstly, appoint an "outsider" as the new performance director. Someone like Bill Sweetenham, the Australian who took one look at British swimming and was so horrified by what he saw he radically restructured, re-appointed and revolutionised.

Second, take a chance on Bogdanovic and back him to the hilt.

He is an 18-year-old with amazing technical potential but who needs the drive, motivation and encouragement of a full-time coach.

He could make something of himself but in the same old system, with the same old ideas, it could easily be the same old story.


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