LTA chief Michael Downey wants 'focus' on developing select youngsters

Last Updated: 14/05/14 6:10pm

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Michael Downey: The new LTA boss has called for 'focus'

Michael Downey: The new LTA boss has called for 'focus'

Sky Bet

The new Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Michael Downey believes British tennis needs to focus on a more select group of youngsters to improve its future.

British Tennis has been devoid of top level players for decades, with Andy Murray the only men's Wimbledon Champion in 77 years and Virgina Wade the last women's Wimbledon Champion in 1977.

Downey, the former president and CEO of Tennis Canada, has commissioned experienced coach Bob Brett to investigate Britain's faltering system and he expects the outcome to shake-up the game for the better.

"Changes will be identified, no one is disagreeing with that," he said. "Andy Murray aside, we are not happy with the results of Great British tennis in the high performance level.

"That's why we brought Bob in to take a look. Some will agree with him, some won't, but his report will generate a lot of healthy debate for our sport that will raise good things.

"Generally we support too many kids, have too many events and are doing too many things. We need more focus.

"You need to have a wide pool but once that kid engages, if they show promise, you've got to have focus. It's not about 500 kids, it's about 60 - unfortunately that's what high performance tennis is all about.

"It's about knowing the kid, building the plans around them, working with external partners, knowing we can't do it all ourselves. If you think how difficult it is for a player in our sport to succeed then it's tough."

Murray made history last year when he added the Wimbledon title to his US Open triumph and Olympic Gold medal in 2012, and Downey believes now is the time to strike in boosting the sport's popularity.

And he hopes the Great British Tennis Weekends, that will see hundreds of parks and clubs across the country offer free opportunities to play the game this summer, produce an influx of kids at grassroots level.

"We've got to have the fundamentals in place to take full advantage of Andy Murray's popularity and celebrity to bring new people into the sport," Downey said.

"In these events over these weekends, 10 years from now someone who turned up may become a junior champion."

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