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Last Updated: Friday, 13 October 2006, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
Tennis masterplan
Jonathan Overend
By Jonathan Overend
BBC Five Live tennis correspondent

Roger Draper
Draper wants to get the best coaches on board
A new blueprint for the future of British tennis has been unveiled by the Lawn Tennis Association's chief executive Roger Draper.

At the heart of Draper's vision is a desire to transfer more resources to the sport's front-line.

Essentially, he wants to get the right coaches working with the right players in the best environment.

It sounds pretty logical but you'd be amazed at how many have tried and failed over the years at LTA Towers.

By "right coaches", Draper simply means the best coaches in the world.

When he arrived from Sport England in March, he was alarmed by a "jobs for the boys" culture which had been allowed to develop.

He wants a team fronted by people with real international calibre, not recently retired trainees. So expect Paul Annacone and Peter Lundgren to battle for the Head of Men's Tennis job.

Nigel Sears is the outstanding candidate for Head of Women's Tennis. And London-based Belgian Carl Maes, who has so much to offer, would be a perfect fit as head of the new National Tennis Centre.

We must support coaches who are delivering

Roger Draper

Other coaches who want to work at the elite top-end will be encouraged to do so with the chance of subsidisation.

"We must support coaches who are delivering," says Draper. Fundamentally, the old notion of "National Training", the wing of the LTA which exists in a tiny two-court indoor complex at Queens Club, will be dismantled.

Academies at Bath and Loughborough will cease to exist, reverting instead to "Performance Club" status.

Regarding facilities, the LTA plans to make a bigger investment in what it describes as its "Premiership" network of clubs - those with successful junior programmes and a track record of delivering players.

"If they need a new clay court, or an indoor bubble they will get it," says Draper, referring to his top 10 Performance Clubs.

Back at the National Centre in London, Draper wants to create a hub which is right up to speed with the latest advances in fitness, nutrition, psychology and technology.

"We've never really had a professional approach before," he said. "Our job is to remove the excuses, we don't want to blame a lack of facilities or support."

And when players need to train abroad, the LTA is establishing links with other academies in Florida, Australia, Spain and Dubai so that warm-weather facilities are available when required. In return, expect to see some ATP and WTA players using the British facility at Roehampton.

Next, it's tournaments - something Draper is very big on.

Why, he argues, does a year pass with only three weeks of professional, tour-level tennis in Great Britain?

It's a situation he'd love to alter and he's talking to both the ATP and the WTA about the chances of getting extra tournaments. Not easy. Far more realistic, and exciting, is a potential bid to stage the Tennis Masters Cup in London.

Millennium Dome
The Dome could stage a potential Tennis Masters Cup in London

The end-of-season showdown between the top eight players of the year is in Shanghai for the next three years but once the deal expires, Draper wants to bring the stars to the capital - and why not?

A venue such as the Dome or Alexandra Palace would make for a suitably grand setting.

Then there's the matter of the people who attend these tournaments. Despite lame protestations over the years from those who really should know better, tennis in Britain has attracted a traditionally white, middle class audience.

Draper favours initiatives such as dirt-cheap tickets for kids to Davis Cup ties.

He's even planning - wait for it, this is pretty momentous stuff - to get more kids into Wimbledon.

In the past, the LTA has run a ballot of around 7500 tickets through the ACE Advantage scheme but these tickets now look set to be redirected specifically to junior players and promising kids who want to be inspired by the Centre Court experience.

Draper delivered this blueprint to the media free of notes for half an hour with a passion and determination not seen before from an LTA chief executive.

Now, Mr Draper, having set yourself quite a challenge, the hard work begins.

SEE ALSO
GB youngsters get funding boost
06 Jul 06 |  Tennis
Members set to buy Queen's Club
08 Mar 06 |  Tennis


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