The new Silksworth Tennis Club chairman Ian Rawlinson believes the Lawn Tennis Association must change their views at grassroots level in order to create more world class talent.
Last month Andy Murray became world number one in men’s tennis, the first male Briton to accomplish this feat. Yet the United Kingdom currently only has three men represented in the top 100, as well as three women representing in their own rankings.
“It’s quite sad that we have the tennis world number one, but the rest of the country is way behind that standard,” said Mr Rawlinson.
“They [the LTA] have got to have a system in place that identifies young players with talent. But at the moment they don’t have a national system that is regionalised to get the best from people.
“Youngsters come to play but we can’t attract them outside. We don’t have enough players playing on outside courts because of our climate. The structure of tennis needs a radical rethink as to how they can get the best out of the talent available.
“They don’t have a scholarship system which can take people from 10 or 11 and develop them. Because if they have the ability at that age, they have the ability to be taken on to become a world class tennis professional.”
However Patrick Horne, tennis president of Sunderland University, thinks sending players abroad would be a negative approach by the LTA.
“I wouldn’t send anyone abroad,” he said. “Spend the money on British facilities, build more indoor courts and improve coaching and drills.
“Players would benefit from a range of different climates but I don’t see any advantage of being from Spain instead of the UK. If you look at the current top five, none of them are from a hotter climate.”
Horne, who is a qualified coach and player, believes tennis is “the most challenging sport to be good at”. He also sees Murray’s achievement as inspirational because of how hard he has worked to get there, stressing that it is about more than just his nationality.
Originally from Gateshead, Horne feels the opportunities in the North East are also improving: “There are lots of clubs and centres around the North East. Also lots of coaches go into schools to teach kids and suggest getting into tennis. There’s also local leagues for all clubs to play in, one in winter and summer from ages five to 18.”
Overall Horne believes British tennis is on the up after winning the Davis Cup and the rise of British number two Kyle Edmund: “In Murray we have the world number one and Kyle Edmund in the top 50 at only 21 years old. Also the Davis Cup victory shows that British tennis is strong currently.”