Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
watch listen BBC Sport BBC Sport
Low graphics|Help
Last Updated: Friday, 1 December 2006, 17:09 GMT
A new look for British tennis
Jonathan Overend
By Jonathan Overend
BBC Five Live tennis correspondent

Paul Annacone
Paul Annacone will be involved for 20 weeks of the year

Questions, questions, questions. A day doesn't go by without a new one for the Lawn Tennis Association, that walking, talking question mark of a sports governing body.

For the past few months the LTA has been searching for a new leadership team to fill a collection of prime jobs including "Head of Men's Tennis".

The job description stated that the successful candidate would preferably have experience of coaching a Grand Slam champion or a top 10 player.

The LTA hired a recruitment agency to lead the search, they advertised in the biggest newspaper executive appointments section and a consultant was reportedly sent across the Atlantic to crunch numbers with key candidates.

On this "extensive worldwide search", the LTA presented itself as a dynamic, reformed organisation with complete focus on the future and disdain for the past.

"We've failed in the past and now we're moving forward" appeared to be the motto.

So here's the question du jour - why have they appointed a Head of Men's Tennis who was in effectively the same job not 10, not 15, but 30 years ago?

Paul Hutchins was men's national team manager and Davis Cup captain for 12 years from 1975 to 1987.

Paul Hutchins needs to be very cute in getting the best value for money from those precious weeks with Annacone

In 1978, his team of Buster Mottram, Mark Cox and the Lloyd brothers reached the Davis Cup final, losing to an American team headed by John McEnroe.

Hutchins relinquished his position in 1987, the same year Andy Murray was born, and for the past 19 years has remained heavily involved in British tennis through the Junior Club League, the successful Road to Wimbledon programme and the Performance Club structure which now receives even greater attention as the LTA aims to decentralise.

Now, after a lifetime in the sport which started on the lawns of the Bristol Tennis Club, he has a dream opportunity to manage a coaching team including Brad Gilbert, Paul Annacone and Peter Lundgren - three of the most respected coaches in the world.

Paul Hutchins suddenly has the biggest job of his life in his 62nd year.

The reaction among ex-players was one of complete surprise, so why has the LTA gone down this particular route?

The quick answer is that the number one target Paul Annacone didn't want to relocate to Britain and work in a full-time capacity so they needed someone else.

606 DEBATE: Share your thoughts on the new leadership team

Pete Sampras' former coach will work with British players for 20 weeks a year and this is where Hutchins needs to be very cute in getting the best value for money from those precious weeks.

It may be that Annacone's most productive work will be inspiring and educating young British coaches as opposed to young British players. Time will tell but it is important we get the balance right.

What makes perfect sense is the desire to keep Annacone on the practice court and away from the offices.

Carl Maes
Maes faces a tough job in charge of British women's tennis

In that respect, Hutchins - a diligent administrator and good communicator - fits into the team quite nicely (as long as he's ready for the in-tray full of letters from pushy parents with funding issues).

The best news to come from the LTA's midweek announcement is that the unloved and unappreciated women's game in Britain will now be getting overdue, full-time attention.

When Keith Wooldridge retired as head of women's tennis two years ago, he wasn't properly replaced.

Carl Maes, the Belgian who used to coach Kim Clijsters, was desperate to step up from his position as under-14 manager but, after having his ideas rejected, he left the LTA for the private sector.

Now he's back for the top job assisted by Nigel Sears, who coached three players into the WTA top 10 including Daniela Hantuchova.

Only one British woman is ranked inside the world's top 150 so it's a big job to sort out the mess.

Sears will work with the over-16s to try to make average players better while Maes, who refreshingly says he's in this for the long term, will start at the base of the pyramid on structure and strategy.

And it's there, down at the base of the British pyramid at grass roots level, where the major reconstruction work remains to be addressed.

For all the tweaking at the top and the quest for a short term fix, the LTA still needs to get much deeper and confront the long-term issues.

"The next part of the jigsaw is to develop a joined-up approach to community tennis," says LTA chief Roger Draper. "I hope that we will be in a position to announce the new community approach over the coming months."

Annacone part of new LTA set-up
30 Nov 06 |  Tennis

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Daily and weekly e-mails | Mobiles | Desktop Tools | News Feeds | Interactive Television | Downloads
Sport Homepage | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League | Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Snooker | Horse Racing | Cycling | Disability sport | Olympics 2012 | Sport Relief | Other sport...

Help | Privacy & Cookies Policy | News sources | About the BBC | Contact us