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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 May, 2003, 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK
British championships scrapped
Exclusive by Jonathan Overend
BBC tennis correspondent

Tim Henman
Henman has not competed in recent years
The British National Tennis Championships are being scrapped with immediate effect.

The tournament, of which Tim Henman, Jeremy Bates and Jo Durie are all former winners, will not happen again in the forseeable future.

Governing body the Lawn Tennis Association has taken the decision because it wants to focus more on international tournaments with the availability of world ranking points for its players.

This fits in with the policy of new performance director David Felgate, who does not want the media constantly talking about good young prospects.

The 2002 National Championships had two teenage champions, Alex Bogdanovic and Anne Keothavong. They won 5,000 each in prize money but no ranking points.

Felgate's philosphy is that players, especially young players, should earn the right to play in big events, win prize money and therefore attract publicity.

LTA Performance Director David Felgate
Felgate's focus is on international events
But, more pressingly, the event is no longer sustainable commercially.

The last time the BBC TV cameras rolled was in 1999 when highlights were shown of Jamie Delgado against Barry Cowan.

The public was disinterested, with Henman not appearing in recent years, and last year's finals were watched by tiny crowds despite claims it was a sell-out.

There were locker-room mutterings about the way the event was staged and presented post-Henman.

Some players believe the decision is a defeatist admission that British tennis is not particularly good.

But the embarrassing reality for the sport appears to be that after 19 years, British tennis can no longer sustain a National Championships.

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