‘I have absolute belief in the performance strategy’: LTA chief hits back at Heather Watson over her criticism about lack of young British talent coming through
- Heather Watson is furious about the lack of younger talent coming through
- No British singles players made it through to the French Open second round
- It’s the first time that’s happened at a Grand Slam since the 2013 French Open
Heather Watson drew a stinging response from the boss of British tennis after her outspoken comments that came in the wake of GB’s French Open singles wipeout.
Following a full house of first round defeats Watson bemoaned the lack of youngsters coming through, funding policies and the politics within the Lawn Tennis Association.
Scott Lloyd, LTA Chief Executive, issued a robust defence of strategy, with a swipe at the country’s number two female thrown in.
‘I don’t recognise much of Heather’s interview,’ he said. ‘ In particular I think that the ‘politics’ she talks about is not something I see at the LTA, I prefer to try to get things done.
Heather Watson (above) slammed the LTA for cherry-picking a small handful of youngsters
‘ I was disappointed to hear the references to lack of support given the wide ranging support we continue to provide to Heather and our elite players, but they are ultimately responsible for their performances on court.
‘We have confidence in the new group of female players coming through on our pathway, after Jo (Konta) and Heather ten of the next best 12 players are all aged 25 or younger. I have absolute belief in the performance strategy.’
His claim about politics is surely disingenuous, as every sports governing body suffers from backstage manoeuvring, tennis more than most.
And confidence in the strategy is not shared, it must be said, by many neutral observers, with only two of the young women referred to currently in the world’s top 250.
One coach with extensive knowledge of the junior scene last week voiced the fear that by 2022 no British youngsters would be able to make the Wimbledon boys’ and girls’ singles events without the help of a wildcard.
All of Britain’s top prospects are over the age of 25, and Watson is not happy with the LTA
In a related development Sportsmail understands that genuine Kent prospect, 2019 Wimbledon junior quarter finalist Anton Matusevich, has enrolled on a full degree course at University College London to study Economics and Statistics. However, he is set to do it exclusively online, and still intends to pursue his tennis career in parallel. It is an interesting path, but then this is not a one-size-fits-all business.
The academically-gifted Matusevich is part of a decent group in that teen age group that includes the much-cited Jack Draper and Emma Raducanu and the lesser-known George Loffhagen, a 19 year-old from Ealing, who is yet to bloom.
It’s the first time a British player hasn’t made it through at a Grand Slam since 2013
They all face their own challenges and are part of the kind of useful cohort British tennis tends to produce every five years or so. It comes down to being a numbers game, as there is a natural attrition rate from every clutch of promising youngsters due to varying reasons – injuries, loss of interest, other options, poor management, interfering and unrealistic parents being the most regular factors.
There has to be a volume of young talent to produce any sustained upswing.
Jamie Murray, an increasingly influential figure, emphasised that he thought Lloyd’s intentions were good but called for British tennis to display more ambition and said: ‘We are getting excited that Liam Broady qualifies and we have six players in the (Paris) main draw. But really? Come on. We are a Grand Slam nation, we should have at least double that in my opinion with the resources we have available. I don’t see how anyone can disagree with that.’