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Page last updated at 23:07 GMT, Monday, 31 May 2010 00:07 UK

LTA targets expose dearth in British men's talent

French Open
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Date: 23 May-6 June
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Andy Murray
Murray could be Britain's only leading tennis star for some time yet

By Jonathan Overend
BBC Radio 5 live at Roland Garros

Great Britain is not expected to have another male tennis player inside the world's top 100 for at least two years, according to LTA projections.

BBC Sport understands that official targets, circulated internally at the LTA, are for one man and four women to be inside the top 100 by September 2012.

With Andy Murray a fixture inside the top 10, a forecast that says the world number four will not be joined by another Briton is a stark illustration of the dearth of talent in British men's tennis.

But by September 2016, the projections change dramatically. The aim is to have four British men in the ATP top 100, four women in the WTA top 100, and places in the World Group of both the Davis Cup and Fed Cup.

606: DEBATE

The LTA has defended its decision to set "realistic" targets.

"The general principle of goal setting is that you should neither aim too low and neither too high," says LTA player director Steven Martens.

"We don't have too many [male] players aged 22 or 23 at the moment. We've got a few, and they do have a shot in the next two years to make the top 100.

"But I think it's tough. It's going to be a strong challenge for them, not impossible but no guarantee.

"That's why we have to give them the motivation as well as the financial backing in the right way."

Former head of men's tennis Mark Petchey, who walked out of the LTA in 2006, has a different view.

"It's a very negative message," he says. "It makes you question their strategy in terms of what they've done for the players. If you don't really believe that they're going to become top-100 players then why are you helping them?"

Those British male players closest to breaking into the elite are Alex Bogdanovic (ranked 160), Jamie Baker at number 257, Josh Goodhall, ranked 306, with Daniel Evans at number 337.

Martens believes that without support from the governing body, many of the current crop of British players would be forced to retire, such are the costs of professional tennis.

Andy Murray

Highlights - Murray crashes out of French Open

At the end of 2009, Britain had four top-100 singles players - Murray, Katie O'Brien, Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong.

The latest figures, seen by BBC Sport, detail the steady progression the LTA intends to make in terms of average rankings, top-100 players and levels of the Davis Cup.

The target for September 2010 is to have three top-100 players (one man, two women) and an average top-five ranking of 160 for men, 113 for women.

For 2011, the estimate is four top-100 players (one man, three women) with an average top-five rankings of 150 and 103.

Five top-100 players is the target for September 2012 (still only one man, four women) with the top-five ranking averaging at 140 for men, 93 for women.

If four British men are to break into the ATP top 100, the hopes of the LTA could be resting heavily on the likes of Ashley Hewitt and Oliver Golding.

Hewitt, an 18-year-old from Warrington, reached the second round of the French Open boys' singles tournament on Monday, while Golding, a 16-year-old from London, has reached the same stage at Roland Garros and plays on Tuesday.

In terms of projections for the Olympic Games, also contained in the figures we have seen, Britain plans to deliver two tennis medals in London 2012 and two more in Rio 2016.

The projections are made to demonstrate a "performance pathway" under terms of UK Sport funding.

Two years ago UK Sport asked all Olympic sports to sign up to "Mission 2012" to ensure accountability for the investment in high-performance.

Men's head coach Paul Annacone, who coached 14-time Grand Slam winner Pete Sampras and former British number one Tim Henman, will leave his post in November having been recruited in 2006.



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see also
Petchey expects resurgent Murray
31 May 10 |  Tennis
Murray makes limp exit in Paris
30 May 10 |  Tennis
Patchy Murray puts out Baghdatis
28 May 10 |  Tennis
Murray eases past Chela in Paris
27 May 10 |  Tennis
Murray warms to French Open task
29 May 10 |  Tennis
Grand slam men's singles latest
21 May 10 |  Tennis
Grand slam women's singles latest
21 May 10 |  Tennis
Order of play
23 May 09 |  Tennis


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FROM OTHER SPORT SITES
Observer Murray ready for Wimbledon glory - 3 hrs ago
London Evening Standard Former British number one says don't write off Andy Murray's Wimbledon chances - 4 hrs ago
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Edinburgh Evening News Tennis: World status isn't concern as Fed exits - 6 hrs ago


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