African-Americans (Venus too) from Compton, California, winning Grand Slam titles. Who would have thought? Anything's possible? I'm not so sure as I just don't think black people see tennis as an option in the USA as it's just not part of their sporting culture. It's still predominantly a middle class white sport plus of course basketball and pro football are just too dominant on many levels.
A young Scottish lad from Dunblane winning Wimbledon. Who would have thought?......
Will Andy Murray have any level of success in terms of inspiring young players from all sections of society to take up tennis as a sport for life?
Yes, we all watch Wimbledon and get pretty excited when Andy wins (twice now in case you missed that!), but participation levels are not rising.
I'm in no way criticising Murray as he is an incredible tennis player and the ultimate professional. It's just a comment on the sad reality his lack of influence on the nation's willingness to take up tennis. Murray has had an effect on the current crop of British tennis players as they are already committed to the game and have been able to learn from him at close hand. But how can we spread this enthusiasm to the general public and affect a culture change in our sport?
I was listening to a phone in on the radio post Andy's heroic win (did I mention that?) which was attempting to explore ways of capitalising on Andy's success. One of my fellow Scottish tennis pros spoke of the need for tennis facilities at schools (good idea) while another Scottish tennis guru who works with Judy Murray spoke of their "Tennis on the Road" project which is attempting to develop a workforce throughout Scotland who can promote and encourage lots of new young players to enjoy the game. One of the key elements here is the possibility to play tennis within a short walk or cycle distance from your house. So, if we had courts everywhere with quality instructors/teachers would this make a difference? In the working class scheme where I grew up there were tennis courts in the local public park and many people had the chance to play tennis perhaps more so than in recent times and these courts must be reinstated! (One of Judy's dreams).
Interestingly I discovered recently that in Iceland they invested heavily in building indoor football centres with great coaches for kids and this has been attributed as one of the main reasons for their success at the Euros. Facilities might not be everything but the opportunity to play combined with good coaching sure helps!The two most consistent tennis nations of the last decade have been France and Spain.
In these countries, and in Germany too, most tennis clubs are social hubs where families will go every weekend to hang out, have lunch, drink at the bar, and maybe play some tennis. But perhaps more importantly there is the possibility of accessing courts at most local levels which is fundamental to participation.
These countries also have many thriving domestic leagues and local tournaments: indeed, a lot of Great Britain’s mid-range players, who are not making money on the professional tours, earn extra money in the French and German leagues.
None of these things are true in the United Kingdom. Tennis is just not fundamental to many people's existence and as much as I love the game and have a enjoyed a wonderful life experience as a result, it's just not on many people's radar. A cultural change is required and I would employ Judy Murray and give her all the resources she requires to get it all going. The LTA have a track record of failure and continue to disappoint so it's time to let Judy take over and make it happen. What most people don't realise is that Judy doesn't need to do all the work she does in trying to develop tennis. Many people in her position would not be spending all their time thinking of how to promote tennis and build a legacy on the back of her 2 amazing sons. They would be off sunning themselves around the world at this time of year!
I only hope that the Scottish government come to their senses and allow her permission to build the her tennis centre near Dunblane. The success of the Murrays has happened despite the system and not because of it so don't let the LTA convince you that all is rosy in British tennis. A cultural change is required asap!!
Nearly forgot to mention Gordon Reid another Scottish legend who won the wheelchair singles and doubles! A huge congratulations to him and his great coach Karen Ross.