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Page last updated at 20:53 GMT, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 21:53 UK

LTA coach backing British tennis

Matt Thomas
Thomas believes players like Laura Robson can lead the way

British tennis is improving, especially the women's game, according to Lawn Tennis Association coach Matt Thomas.

Thomas is the head of tennis at Warwick University, which opened a £2.5m training centre last summer.

The Solihull-born coach told BBC Sport: "We now have four women in the world's top 130, which shows a dramatic increase in the last 10 years.

"But British players, especially in the men's game, need to develop the way they approach matches."

Thomas has been at Wimbledon working with Hungarian world number 54 Melinda Czink, who was knocked out by former champion Amelie Mauresmo in the first round on Tuesday.

He has helped coach Czink when she been in Britain over the last two years, in order to gain experience for touring in the summer on the International Tennis Federation circuit and the Tennis Europe Junior Tour with British players.

And Thomas, who has also worked with Andre Agassi's former coach Nick Saviano, believes there are younger players ready to come through in the UK.

"There are a few younger girls, especially Laura Robson, who have a real chance of breaking into the world's top 50 in future years," he said.

"If we are to look for a champion we need to be looking ahead to 10 years time, when players like Robson are reaching their peak.

The British players need to be mentally tougher on court and physically stronger to cope with the demands of the men's tour

Matt Thomas

"For 10 years, between 1998 and 2008 not a single home-grown female tennis player was ranked in the top 100 until 25-year-old Anne Keothavong broke through in May 2008.

"The turnaround in British female tennis is due to higher levels of professionalism and competition with the four players in the top 130 all driving each other forward.

"Women's tennis is better due to more focus on greater mental strength, physical conditioning and the level of competition in British ladies' tennis.

"In 2009 Keothavong was the first to break into the top 50 in the world since Jo Durie in 1993."

But Thomas believes, despite Andy Murray's success, that the men's game needs to develop more quickly to keep up with the progress in the women's game, especially as there is now only one British man in the world's top 180.

"The British players need to be mentally tougher on court and physically stronger to cope with the demands of the men's tour," he said.

"My experience from observing Eastern European players is that they have a greater hunger for making it to the top, British tennis can learn from them."

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