Wimbledon masterplan must inspire more investment in tennis development
Barry Cowan blogs on Wimbledon's ambition, fair pay for players and Rafa Nadal's Barcelona form.
Last Updated: 24/04/13 12:24pm
I attended the Members' discussion on Monday and was very impressed with the '2020 Masterplan', which includes proposals to re-model Number One Court and add a roof.
Wimbledon wants to remain top of the four Grand Slams - it wants to stay the best tennis venue in the world - and this vision will help to achieve that goal.
The new roof is something of a bonus, actually. The case for adding one to Centre Court was irrefutable - having two covered courts will be fantastic.
The plans were unveiled at the same time as the All England Club announced that there will be a 40 per cent increase in prize money at Wimbledon this year.
The players have been fighting for a rise for quite a few years now because they feel they are entitled to more of the profits but, more importantly, that it should be distributed more fairly.
This isn't about the top players trying to line their pockets - an extra £200,000 for winning a Grand Slam makes no difference to them.
What they are saying - and they should be commended for doing so - is that 'players who are ranked 80 or 90 in the world are exceptional tennis players but they are not getting the rewards they should do' and I agree with that.
Those players lower down the rankings should be able to travel to a tournament with a coach and come out with a profit - and that hasn't always been the case.
It can't be right that The Challenger Tour, the second tier of the men's game, is still offering the same prize money in some events that they offered 20 years ago. The same goes for the next level, the Futures. That has to be looked at before more promising players are priced out by the cost of flights, accommodation and food.
The week before last year's US Open qualifying, they didn't have one Challenger in North America. These are the issues that need to be addressed, so instead of the players saying 'we want more money' the ATP Tour also needs to look at the way that it organises itself.
I'd prefer to see less prize money awarded at Wimbledon and more money invested in development because if you don't improve the lower-rung tournaments, the whole thing is going to come to a halt because no-one is going to be able to travel.
You have to build from the bottom up and look at the whole sport. The Grand Slams have done their bit, now the ball is in the ATP's court. The Futures are run by the ITF and they can't do anything until the ATP do something about the Challengers.
The clay court action continues this week in Barcelona.
No doubt Rafa Nadal is taking the positives from his performance in Monte Carlo last week despite losing the final to Novak Djokovic - and why wouldn't he? Nadal didn't play badly at all; Djokovic was incredible.
Losing to Djokovic on clay doesn't mean that Nadal is on the way down. It just means that Djokovic has got better!
Monte Carlo was Rafa's first big clay court event since his return from injury - and we're only five events into his comeback - and I think he'll get better and better as the clay court season progresses.
Nadal lost one run in Monte Carlo - his defeat was his first there in 47 matches - so I'm sure he'll be doubly determined to keep another run going in Barcelona, where he has won his past 34 matches.
When Nadal is fit only one person can beat him on clay, and that's Djokovic. No doubt the likes of David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych looked at Sunday's final and thought 'goodness me - the level is incredible'.
Barcelona was never on Andy Murray's schedule but after his third round defeat to Stanislas Wawrinka last week I think he should have taken a wildcard.
That would have given him the chance to work on his game in a competitive environment. You can never truly recreate in practice what it's like out there on the court.
In many ways this would have been a free tournament for him. He could have gone out and played and worked on a few things without worrying about results.
However, he set out his schedule at the start of the year and there is no need to panic - so I can see both sides of the argument.
Great Britain's Fed Cup defeat to Argentina in Buenos Aires was a case of what might have been.
For the record, it was unfortunate that Heather Watson was ill. I really believe we would have won the tie if the GB No 2 had played.
But I still can't understand why Elena Baltacha was chosen to play the second singles match on Sunday, particularly with the tie so delicately poised. I said before the match that I wouldn't have played her and I stick by that. It was a mistake.
Baltacha had only played one match since the Olympics and she didn't even finish that singles match, so it was extremely tough to ask her to play on her least favourite surface in the heat and under such pressure.
Why didn't Judy Murray feel she could pick Anne Keothavong and Johanna Konta? It makes you wonder.
Laura Robson did what was required in her Saturday singles against Florencia Molinero but will be disappointed that she couldn't produce her best on Sunday - especially after such a positive eight months or so, going back to her victory with Andy Murray in the mixed doubles.
Her serve continues to concern me.
She has served over 100 double faults this year already and I always feel that she is going to miss on the big points.
She's 19 years of age and has a bright future ahead of her but she needs to get those problems ironed out as soon as possible.