Big year for British tennis with top level and grass roots on the agenda
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH. Last Updated: January 9, 2013 12:10pm
British tennis is looking to build on an amazing 2012, and the next 12 months will be a crucial period in helping to get more people taking up the sport and finding the next big stars.
Andy Murray won the US Open and the Olympic title last year, there was a silver medal for Laura Robson who also reached the fourth round of the US Open while Heather Watson claimed a first WTA title.
On the back of a successful Olympics all-round, and the rise of the young female duo to join Murray as role models for both sexes, British tennis is hoping to flourish of the next few years both in top level performance and in grass roots participation.
One of the British stars sadly not appearing on a court for a while is Ross Hutchins, the doubles specialist who will be out of action for some time after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Hutchins does hope to return to the court at some point though, and upon his return he fully expects to see British tennis looking better than ever with Watson and Robson the leading ladies.
Ross Hutchins with great friend Andy Murray
"I'm expecting big things off those two over the next couple of years," said Hutchins. "I think they'll both be top 20 players I can say that quite openly. Once you get there you can try and move on and aim for the top 10 with a bit of luck with injuries and form and so on.
"I think Laura and Heather are very good players who play differently and that's what is exciting. You've got Laura for power, the big hitting lefty, and then Heather is the agile, athletic, gutsy player with amazing groundstrokes.
"I'm hopeful they'll do really well and moving forward they'll be top 20 players."
2012 was a superb year for tennis with Murray's success, but the key now is to build on that and the Olympics to help the sport thrive at grass roots.
"2012 has been an amazing year for sport in the UK with the Olympics and Wimbledon," added Hutchins. "It all helps and it's key for British tennis to improve because the more people play tennis the more chance we've got of finding the next champion after Andy, but it's also great to have the sport just growing.
"It's such a great sport and we're unfortunate with the weather it's not easy just to go out and have a hit but we've got great centres throughout the country, we just want more kids playing and enjoying it and it's that snowball effect that we can build on.
"We're so football oriented we just need tennis to get just a small piece of that, if we can just get more of the kids playing then that's how we'll find the next ones to break into the top 50, top 20 in the world.
"It's about having tennis as one of the leading sports with football, cricket, rugby from a young age.
"From a younger age it's not that expensive but the problem is a lot of clubs charge a lot to play as the numbers aren't that high they need to charge a lot to play - so we need to change the attitude so if we drop prices more people will come to play. "
Life and pensions company Aegon, Lead Partner of British Tennis, provides support to Team Aegon players including Heather Watson, Laura Robson and many other leading British players. For further information, please visit aegontennis.co.uk